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Joined: Oct 1999
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Marty Offline OP
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Residents of the Placencia Peninsula are concerned after a Facebook post showed deforestation and dredging on the Placencia Caye. Monique Vernon, the founder of Mr Goby and Friends Recycling, explained that she usually goes out to the Caye to clean up trash, but was shocked when she realized she could see through the normally thick mangroves. When she got onto the island, she realized that the mangroves had been dug up and a channel was being dredged.

The sight surprised her, and angered many other residents who feel that this development was destroying the environment. Via Zoom today, Vernon explained that she has been trying to figure out who the developers are and whether they have their permits:

Monique Vernon, Concerned Resident
"It serves as a buffer for storm surges and hurricanes and a lot of boats, sail boats, always harbor behind that Caye for the same reason. And then we had Lobster Fest coming up, lobsters among many other critters, that's their home before they actually go out into the reef so if you have that completely destroyed, it is very worrisome, I feel like it's destroying our culture, our fisheries, our way of life practically."

"I reached out to Southern Environmental Association and a member from that organization called on behalf just trying to check the details and she told me that according to the Department of Environment, they gave them permission to dredge and the Forest Department, I believe, gave them permits to take out the mangroves. I sent in a letter today with several questions because I'm still not certain, like, I don't have any details because there were no consultations done, when I went on the island there, I didn't see a sign, normally if you have a permit, you should have a 4X4 foot sign with the permit embedded on that sign saying that you're doing mangrove work and here's that permission."

"I felt disempowered, I felt voiceless, I felt sad, I feel like I can't do anything but this is me trying to do what I could do to save Placencia Caye, to save the Peninsula."

We reached out to Chief Environmental Officer, Anthony Mai, today but he is currently out of the country. He directed us to call the Department of Environment, but those calls went unanswered, as well as a text to Minister Orlando Habet. We'll follow up with more tomorrow.

Channel 7

Joined: Oct 1999
Posts: 84,400
Marty Offline OP
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Owner of Placencia Caye Speaks Up

And while the reef needs fish, Belize needs mangroves. That's why Placencia residents were concerned after they found that part of the Placencia Caye had been deforested and dredged for development. You heard Monique Vernon say yesterday that no consultations were done, and that while there are reports that the developers do have their permits, she doesn't know who they are.

But the owner of Placencia Caye, Henry Young, says that he's as much of an environmental enthusiast as the next person, and he's been trying to get the island to become a reserve for years. He told us via telephone that he has sold 1/3 of the island for development and plans to keep the other 2/3 full of mangroves. He wanted to assure the Placencia residents that the island wouldn't be destroyed the way they feared.

Henry Young - Owner, Placencia Caye
"It's going over 6 years that I tried to get the government to bring it under reservation and I have gotten no progress at all and in that process they raised by tax from 800 dollars to 3,900. I refuse to sell any of the property or anymore. I tried to explain to the government they should not tax mangrove, they should only tax it when somebody wants to sell. The properties I've gotten I'm in the process now of trying to get it into a trust to make sure that it's preserved. So I only wanted this to be known so that people in Placencia understand that I am totally in agreement that the caye should reserve the mangrove alright."

And while Young couldn't remember who that particular plot of land was sold to, he says he is sure that they have the necessary permits from DOE.

Channel 7

Mangroves Cleared, Dredging Underway - What's Happening on Placencia Caye?

An investigation is currently underway into the development that is taking place on Placencia Caye just off the southern tip of the peninsula. While the island is privately owned, residents who were out on a cleanup campaign made a frightening discovery - a major portion of mangrove had been cleared and a canal had been dredged through the island. Since then, several residents, including the former village chair and others, have expressed their concerns and reached out to relevant authorities about the situation. But was clearance given for the development? News Five's Duane Moody reports.

Duane Moody, Reporting

What's happening on Placencia Caye? That's the question that residents on the namesake peninsula are asking, following the discovery of dredging activity and the destruction of mangroves on the island over the weekend. Founder of Mister Goby and Friends Recycling, Monique Vernon, was along with others on a cleanup campaign on the island when they made the shocking revelation.

Monique Vernon, Founder, Mr. Goby and Friends Recycling

"On Sunday we held a cleanup and our number one spot to visit is Placencia Caye for a number of reasons. One being that there is always trash at Placencia Caye and two, it is a great opportunity for us to go swim and snorkel because there's loads of beautiful coral around the caye. We also normally see manatees feeding and it is a great place to do bird watching as well. I was wondering why I could see through the thickness of mangroves. Normally you can’t see nothing and I was seeing through the mangroves and I'm like what's happening here. When I got closer, I realized that they had left just a skim of mangrove at the front and inside of that, everything was completely gone."

In utter disbelief, Vernon got out of her kayak to find that a canal had been dug; the dredged material contained fragments of dead coral and other organism. Heavy duty machinery can be seen operating on the island which is less than two minutes away by kayak.

Monique Vernon

"Not only were the mangroves being cut down, but they were also dredging, it seems to be like they were creating a new channel in that area as well because there was like a hill of what seemed to be mud mixed with dead corals on that deforested plot. It broke my heart and I just started thinking about all the animals that are being displaced or will be affected some way or the other. And also the residents of Placencia because I feel like people often forget that we are living on a sandpit of a peninsula and Placencia Caye is very important to us because not only does it host a number of critical species that uses those same mangrove ecosystem as a nursery ground, a place for food and shelter, but residents of Placencia use that caye to harbor behind during tough storms and even hurricane. That caye is very important in blocking that force."

Several residents, including Vernon, have written to the Department of Environment and other government departments to find out whether permits and approvals were issued to the developers.� For them, the destruction will have long-lasting effects on the Placencia community.

Monique Vernon

"I reached out to the Southern Environmental Association to ask them if they were aware that that was happening and it didn't seem like they were. And Miss Reina from SEA called the D.O.E. and several offices and she told me that they said that a permit was issued for them to do dredging and clearing of mangroves. But then I messaged her back and she said she was trying to call D.O.E. again to get more information and they referred her to the mining area of the department, but when she called those departments, they never responded. I personally, a lot of us, we Googled to check the D.O.E. website if a E.C.P. or an E.I.A. was done or listed under their website, but we don't see anything under the Enclave for the Placencia Caye. So, in our opinion, I don't see anything happening. And when I visited that day when we did the clean up, we didn't see no sign. Normally, when you have a permit being issued you have a four by four foot sign saying we got the go ahead to do this and here's the permit; the permit should be embedded on that sign as well. We didn't see any sign. I spoke to the village council and they were never aware of that happening and there was no public consultations done either."

The Department of Environment has confirmed with News Five that they are aware of the situation and are currently checking with all relevant departments about the activity on the island. Following those checks they will be prepared to make a statement.

Channel 5

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