Hol Chan Marine Reserve is the #1 attraction for tourists that visit Ambergris Caye; this protected area and national jewel generates millions of dollars for the community and the government of Belize. Cayo Rosario sits in the middle of the Hol Chan Expansion, protected as a productive fish nursery, world-renowned catch and release sport fishing zone and important migration corridor.
On May 30, 2019, the Supreme Court of Belize refused leave for Judicial Review in the case brought forward by the Ambergris Caye Citizens for Sustainable Development (ACCSD) against the Department of Environment (DOE) regarding the approved development at Cayo Rosario.
While the Environmental Impact Assessment and Environmental Compliance Plan between the developer and the DOE have been approved and signed, the Cayo Rosario development group still requires permits from the Ministry of Natural Resources for dredging permits, mangrove clearing permits from the Forestry Department, as well as permissions from the Belize Fisheries Department to develop a portion of a national marine reserve.
The Belize Fisheries Act, Hol Chan Regulations (2015) clearly states that, "No Person within the boundaries of the reserve shall erect any structures temporary or permanent unless authorized by the Fisheries Administrator.”
The Ambergris Caye Citizens for Sustainable Development reiterates its commitment to the people of Ambergris Caye, and we will continue our advocacy to each of these Government departments to deny these permits and permissions on the basis that the proposed development activities will irrevocably damage ecologically and economically the important sand flats and seagrass beds around Cayo Rosario.
Located off the west coast of Ambergris Caye, Cayo Rosario is a six-acre island rich in both terrestrial and marine life. In 2015, the tiny caye and the surrounding areas were determined to be critical to Ambergris Caye, and its flats fishing industry, delicate shoals, and flats were included in the expansion of the Hol Chan Marine Reserve called The Cayo Rosario Conservation Zone.
Our local leaders, Minister Heredia, along with San Pedro Mayor Daniel Guerrero, initiated the formation of the Wetlands Committee that included ACCSD. ACCSD then advocated for and funded the research that resulted in the Hol Chan Reserve 2015 expansion to be approved for these very reasons.
Last year, in May 2018, Ambergris Caye citizens were stunned when they learned that the National Environmental Advisory Board (NEAC) and the DOE had approved the plan for a mega-resort on the tiny island after the overwhelming objections by local stakeholders to the proposed project. The approved Cayo Rosario Development Plan calls for 50 island bungalows on the private island as well as 54 over-the-water structures over the protected fishing flats. For these reasons local stakeholders vehemently objected to the project at the public consultation, through print and social media and correspondence to the DOE and NEAC.
This recent decision of May 30th is disheartening but does not deter the ACCSD from moving forward towards our goal: to stop destructive development, massive dredging, and over-the-water structures in Belize’s Hol Chan Marine Reserve. Especially in this vital Conservation Zone that our community and local leaders fought so hard to protect. The ACCSD is examining all approaches to ensure that this does not happen.
The Department of Environment has the legal mandate to protect our environmental resources and ensure its sustainable use for future generations. But when they fail to follow their own laws and guidelines, we, as Belizeans, must hold them accountable.
The ACCSD appeals to Mayor Guerrero, San Pedro Town Council, Minister Heredia, and local stakeholders to help take action to make sure that this important area is not destroyed.
For more information and to find out how you can help, please contact the ACCSD, see our website www.accsdbz.org
and visit www.defendcayorosario.com.