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Tourists found illegally snorkeling

Posted By: Marty

Tourists found illegally snorkeling - 09/30/12 01:20 PM

Yesterday, Thursday, three tourists were found illegally snorkeling in the Caye Caulker Marine Reserve. How can tourists ‘illegally snorkel’ you may well ask? Well, to ensure the protection of the reef and its inhabitants, Tour Guides are assigned to lead snorkeling experiences within all the reserves in Belize and there is nothing different about the Caye Caulker Marine Reserve.

At lunchtime yesterday 3 un-named tourists thought that it would be a clever idea, to get out of paying for a licensed snorkeling trip, to take one of the free kayaks that are available at their hostel (Bellas) and paddle themselves to the reef!! It looks as though they were so cheap that they only had one snorkel and mask between them and therefore, when they got to Shark and Ray Alley they took it in turns to see what hid beneath the surface of the ocean, whilst the other two got sunburnt on the boat!

Officials (who keep an ever protective eye on our reef) saw the kayakers and set out in a motor boat to evacuate them from the reef and take them home!! We had to watch and giggle to ourselves as the tourists one by one were pulled into the motor boat and their kayak was towed home, back to Caye Caulker and most likely to face small charges of breaking the law of the Marine Reserve!!

Raggamuffin Tours

Posted By: Anonymous

Re: Tourists found illegally snorkeling - 09/30/12 01:57 PM

What could have been a useful blog entry to educate tourists instead does nothing but highlight a petty attitude by Raggamuffin tours.
Posted By: Bear

Re: Tourists found illegally snorkeling - 09/30/12 02:10 PM

Which begs the question about the Mexico Rocks Reserve when finalized...there are a number of accomodations immediately inshore from certain portions of the Rocks who guests "love" to kayak. One wonders if such enformcent would happen there as well?


PS I agree C2C, it was a missed opportunity and a rather smug display even if the tourists were busted...is Ragamuffin making an assumption about the perps compos mentis or do they know for a fact that the tourists deliberately the law? Many visitors wouldnt have the slightest clue about any such requirement...
Posted By: BrusselSprout

Re: Tourists found illegally snorkeling - 09/30/12 02:21 PM

I think you guys are being a bit tough on Ragamuffin.

The whole thing just seems tongue in cheek to me...more of a cute story and a gentle jab to go with real tour companies.
Posted By: Bear

Re: Tourists found illegally snorkeling - 09/30/12 02:57 PM

grin lol, duly chastized 'Becca! but it struck me the same as C2C. Eye of the beholder and all that...

Posted By: Bear

Re: Tourists found illegally snorkeling - 09/30/12 03:05 PM

I will add that the thought of a visitor being fined for a first time infraction is absurd and more so if it happens. Not that a violation didnt happen if such a law exists but that the consitency of enforcement within reserves seems to be spotty, highly suspect and selective.

Posted By: SimonB

Re: Tourists found illegally snorkeling - 09/30/12 03:05 PM

To the best of my knowledge there is no law that states you must have a tour guide in all of the marine reserves, pay a fee yes, but a tour guide...

Feel free to correct me and show me the law if I'm wrong.
Posted By: elbert

Re: Tourists found illegally snorkeling - 09/30/12 03:20 PM

Originally Posted by Bear
Which begs the question about the Mexico Rocks Reserve when finalized...there are a number of accomodations immediately inshore from certain portions of the Rocks who guests "love" to kayak. One wonders if such enformcent would happen there as well?

Bear the article says
"to ensure the protection of the reef and its inhabitants, Tour Guides are assigned to lead snorkeling experiences within all the reserves in Belize"
I think thats correct and acually protecting the reef is protecting it from unsupervised visits like the Tourist kayakers.
Holels along the reef that send their Tourist visitors out to the reef unsupervised should be aware they are contributing to the destruction of the reef in a large way but because its not a reserve they can get away with it.
Posted By: Bear

Re: Tourists found illegally snorkeling - 09/30/12 03:26 PM

Well I'll be hornswoggled Simon...Yet I have been told by a park ranger in casual conversation that this was the case. I just checked the Fisheries Act and there is no prohibtion of access without a licensed guide...So much for relying on "offical interpretation".

Now it makes you wonder how many tour operators think thats the law...

Posted By: elbert

Re: Tourists found illegally snorkeling - 09/30/12 03:37 PM

Humm, if one of White Sands boats went to the reserve and our guides BTB licences was expired he would be in court and the boat with tourist would be turned away.
must be a law there somewhere.
Posted By: Bear

Re: Tourists found illegally snorkeling - 09/30/12 03:51 PM

I saw that Elbert, thank you.

A tour guide assigned to accompany guests to the reef certainly does help to ensure that the reef and its inhabitants are not damaged, harmed, or molested for that matter. Although I have to say it is difficult to avoid a shitstorm debate about those selfsame guides' routine practice of handling turtles, sharks etc. in the name of "pleasure and education" of their clients. Please, for those of you who would take up arms seeking my head, I do see both sides of that argument and, although I personally favor "laisse faire" and hands off, I have accepted the local practice as historical and unlikely to change however much I, or others, disfavor it.

Because the author of the article believed there was a law prohibting access without a guide:

Quote
We had to watch and giggle to ourselves as the tourists one by one were pulled into the motor boat and their kayak was towed home, back to Caye Caulker and most likely to face small charges of breaking the law of the Marine Reserve!!


and based on what I had been told by a park ranger, I believed that to be true as well. It made me think about the problems that could more frequently arise at Mexico Rocks. Simon's comments, as usual, are enlightening and helped set the reocrd straight. Well for me at least.

I agree wholeheartedly with Elbert's comments. I would also add that it is incumbent on those of us accomodating guests to the island that they be educated not only to water safety but to the safety and welfare of the natural environs as well. That should be the case whether one provides guest accomodations of 3 rooms or 30. In fact I'm going to modify the Water Safety sheet that came about after that tragic accident with a supplement about reef proetection and the laws that apply. Great discussion.
Posted By: SimonB

Re: Tourists found illegally snorkeling - 09/30/12 05:10 PM

If there were such a law on the books you wouldn't be able to leave your hotel without a guide on Tobacco Caye, South Water Caye, Pelican Cayes, Coco Plum Caye, etc.
Posted By: ScubaLdy

Re: Tourists found illegally snorkeling - 09/30/12 05:41 PM

Why? Is this another example of small mindedness? If someone has come here and paid a price for accommodations, food, etc. why in the world should they not be allowed to snorkel without paying a guide? Belize is competing in a world market and I know of no other place that puts those kinds of restrictions on water sports. If you do please tell us. When one thinks small the results are small.
Posted By: SimonB

Re: Tourists found illegally snorkeling - 09/30/12 05:48 PM

BTW, I do believe that due to the nature of the reserve that a guide is a must when snorkelling the cut at Hol Chan. There may actually be a law for that reserve but I'm quite sure that it's a specific case.
Posted By: ragman

Re: Tourists found illegally snorkeling - 09/30/12 06:07 PM

Many private boats go up to Mexico rocks for a snorkeling trip. We don't hire guides and we tie up to the established moorings so as not to do damage to the reef. In addition we have no one on board who pays for the trip. I believe I've heard of the Park Rangers coming by and collecting a fee but it has never happened to me.

The fact of the example given where a boat showed up with a guide with an expired license, well I can understand that. He is getting paid to perform a duty that he is technically not licensed for. But a private boat with only owners and maybe a couple of non-paying guests on it?

I do know that I have a friend who will not pick me up at my dock if we go off snorkeling together. This he has told me is so that no guide would think that he is charging and acting as a guide on our trips. I believe he feared harm to his boat rather than an infraction to the law.

Yes, this is a good discussion and the first post caught me as a little smug.
Posted By: ragman

Re: Tourists found illegally snorkeling - 09/30/12 07:35 PM

Another thought. Whenever we go to Hol Chan which is mostly with guests visiting me (maybe 4 or 5 times a year) we always hire a guide to take us. The guide can put guests who are not used to the water or snorkeling at ease and in addition they provide a lot of facts about the reef and sea creatures that I could never duplicate.

In addition they are usually part of the entertainment of the trip. laugh We have had many guests tell us that the Hol Chan trip was an experience they will never forget. I'd rather let them handle a trip like that even if it is legal not to have a guide.

Posted By: elbert

Re: Tourists found illegally snorkeling - 10/01/12 12:42 AM

I found this about Galapagos rules
'Galapagos National Park Rules
The Galapagos Islands are one of the most magical places on earth. Here animals live without fear and do not run away from visitors. To maintain the uniqueness of the Galapagos Islands the national park service has developed rules to aid in the preservation. Your naturalist-guide will explain and enforce these rules making sure that all visitors
stay together on marked paths and respect the follow the other park service regulations.
Do not visit the islands unless accompanied by a licensed National Park Guide.
Restrict your visits to officially approved areas.
Show your conservationist attitude.'

I'm sure we're not the only place that requires a guide to visit.

How could anyone belive that letting unescourted people visit the marine reserves would not be detremental to the reef?
Posted By: Bear

Re: Tourists found illegally snorkeling - 10/01/12 03:16 PM

Quote
I'm sure we're not the only place that requires a guide to visit.


Okay guys so now I'm thoroughly confused. Is there, or is there not, documentation (i.e a law) that a marine reserve, in general or specifically (e.g. Hol Chan), requires the accompaniment of a licensed guide?

I was once told by a ranger that it was a requirement but after Simon questioned that requirement I cannot find supportive documenation to the contrary. It would be nice to get a definitve answer backed up with a citation.

This is the best set of "rules" I could find http://www.holchanbelize.org/rules.html contains no mandatory Tour Guide language.

but then I find the following statement here, http://www.holchanbelize.org/visit.html

Quote
You must hire a boat and guide out of San Pedro or Caye Caulker. The costs start from $12.50US per person depending on the services offered. It is easy to mix diving and snorkeling. Trips usually run once in the morning and again in the afternoon.


this requirement is not codified in the HCMR portion of the Fisheries ACT ammended 1987. Is this merely being stated as policy?, or is it a simple statement that you have to hire a boat with a guide to get there?

If the requiremtnt to hire a guide is a law one would think there would be a citation somewhere in either the Fisheries Act or the Belize Tourism Board Act. Without codifcation it isn't enforceable, which to my mind defeats the whole purpose of a reserve state intended to "preserve and protect".

Personally I'm starting to suspect that the requirement to pay the use fee is what is driving some of this.

I have no problem with requiring a guide; it's in the best interest of the resource. In fact at the Hol Chan Cut, simply from a safety stand point, you need one to safeguard human life in addtiton to the resources. If the Fisheries Act states that each reserve may develop its owm rules, that's great but I cant find that either.

Here is an interesting UN overview document of HCMR http://www.car-spaw-rac.org/IMG/pdf/Belize_-_Presentation_report_for_the_Hol_Chan_Marine_Reserve.pdf
Posted By: ScubaLdy

Re: Tourists found illegally snorkeling - 10/01/12 04:34 PM

Elbert - I have no problem having 'restricted areas.' However, those should be well defined and information given. As for the Galapagos: an archipelago of volcanic islands distributed around the equator in the Pacific Ocean, 972 km (525 nmi) west of continental Ecuador, per Wikipedia. Being as isolated as they are they can have control. We, on the other hand have people coming here for many reasons. I had written – many years ago – that the BTB needs to do a video to show on the incoming airlines all of our resources and regulations.
As for these three poor tourists – a warning should have sufficed. Then maybe an article in the newspaper which would help educate other tourists.
I still contend that residents and visitors should be allowed to boat, kayak, snorkel, etc. in all other areas. I help my neighbor with the kayak rental. We are very clear about the fragility of the reef, what not to touch or stand on and how to tie up to moorings. I have to believe that resort personnel (mostly Belizeans) care as much as I do.
Yes, there is a small percentage of every population who are uneducated and/or uncaring but for the most part the people who come here are just as interested as are we in preserving our natural resources.
Posted By: Cooper

Re: Tourists found illegally snorkeling - 10/02/12 04:09 AM

If you do not have a tour guide license and own your own boat, you have to have a Captains license. You are allowed to take immidiate family out on your boat with you. You can fish, you can go to the reef and snorkel etc, with immidiate family only. If you have hotel guest or other friends onboard it is big time against the law. This law is a bit different as it is meant to protect tour guides. If you are a Belizean or a resident you can take a kayak out to snorkel. If you are not you need to get park fee reciepts prior to going. This may have been the issue. Most kayak rental businesses dont allow them on the reef as it really is not for novices. We really dont know what happened here, the folks that were out snorkeling could have been in trouble, they could have been smart asses to officials, or officials may have known the kayak rental place did not allow thenm on the reef, then as well they had not paid park fees.
Posted By: Bear

Re: Tourists found illegally snorkeling - 10/02/12 02:21 PM

Quote
If you have hotel guest or other friends onboard it is big time against the law.


Hi Coop,

Ragman mentioned that he has a friend who will not pick him up from his dock for snorkeling so as to preclude accusations and reprisals against his friend (not a guide) from tour guides. He stated this practice was not to hide any infraction of law. Tour guides appear to be fairly jealous of their trade. Cant say that I blame them.

So far I have never seen any citation limiting passengers to family only; whether you're in the reserve or not. You would simply need to pay the fee when in the reserve. The only requirement I can find is that a daily use fee must be paid either by obtaining a ticket at the offices or from a ranger when in the reserve. Failure to pay that use fee would be a violation.

I note that people have complained ahere and elsewhare about the application of that fee requiremtnent when it comes to its applicablity to residents/citizens of Belize. Whether I would argue the legal basis of either citizen use fees or non family members in my boat with a Ranger on the water is another matter. If I deemed that discretion were the better part of valor and retired from the field so to speak, I would proabably take it up with the reserve's manager. Diplomatically of course, and in a fashion which afforded maintaining face.

Based on the laws I found: If you operate a boat you must have your Captain's license. You have to have a Captain's license to operate a boat whether you have a Tour Guide's license or not. You must have a captains license if you fish from your boat, commercially or otherwise. Only a citizen resident of Belize can obtain a Tour Guides license.

As usual, I'm more than willing to be shown my errors. In fact at this point I'd love it if someone could show me where the requiremnt to hire a guide for HCMR is coming from. I suspect there may be something out there but its pretty well hidden...

180 out from what I thought yesterday...


Posted By: elbert

Re: Tourists found illegally snorkeling - 10/02/12 02:42 PM

http://www.sanpedrosun.com/environm...to-make-turneffe-atoll-a-marine-reserve/
I'm sure you guys heard about this.
We're gona need mo tour guides :-)
Posted By: Bear

Re: Tourists found illegally snorkeling - 10/02/12 02:46 PM

Ha! Yes Elbert, thats great! Two birds with one stone, a plus for resourse conservation and employment. Maybe they'll correct the omission we've been talking about and add language requiring that you hire a licensed tour guide to accompany you at all times. I just hope they word it correctly otherwise that room for two just became a suite for three...
Posted By: ScubaLdy

Re: Tourists found illegally snorkeling - 10/02/12 03:28 PM

I read the article. As with all the other reserves this is very interesting. There are a number of resorts out there and I personally know of one fishing camp. How will this affect them? Will there be no more commercial fishing allowed?
Posted By: JZB

Re: Tourists found illegally snorkeling - 10/02/12 03:46 PM

Commercial fishing and sport fishing are not the same thing.

" It will allow for the support of catch and release sport fishing, scuba diving, snorkeling and other sustainable tourism activities. "
Posted By: Bear

Re: Tourists found illegally snorkeling - 10/02/12 04:20 PM

Actually in regards to commercial fishing within a Marine Reserve I was intrigued to see language that provided the demarkation of a zone within the HCMR specifically for the continuation of historic commercial fisheries (lobster and queen conch) by natives of Ambergris Caye. I know historic is not the actual term used I just cant think of it at the moment. Indigenous? I thnk its Zone D but thats from a hazy memory don't shoot me if I'm wrong. smile

IO could have sworn that the TAMR language involved the terms sustainable use for commercial and sport fisheries. I'll have to check that out...

Still looking for TAMR Mgt Plan but I di find this hella good study

http://www.turneffeatoll.org/app/webroot/userfiles/66/File/a%20management%20plan%20for%20MPA's%20Turneffe.pdf
Posted By: Cooper

Re: Tourists found illegally snorkeling - 10/03/12 04:26 AM

Bear,
Things here always seem to be on a day to day basis. A few years ago we were stopped with friends on the reef at Caye Caulker, we actually had park permit tickets purchased for them and at Shark Ray park boat came and collected tickets and told us we could not bring people to the reserve without a guide, it was just a warning. A friend was caught taking friends out fishing and spent two years in court. He did not have a guide or the additional license for fishing tours and for awhile actually had his home here seized. I dont know what the actual laws are. It seems anyway that in alot of cases actual laws dont matter here. On a whole other topic, there are 12 pages of laws pertaining to dogs. Its called the Dog Act Law, The Police wont inforce it. Again 2 days ago I had to take the laws into the Police station because we have new police, they had never heard of it, so of course it wont be enforced. I think it was overkill with those snorklers, we travel worldwide with snorkle stuff in hand, and have never been stopped, but being on a boat seems to be a different thing.
Posted By: Bear

Re: Tourists found illegally snorkeling - 10/03/12 05:24 AM

I can appreciate that Coop, hence my statement about not debating legalities with a Ranger in the field. Ad hoc enforcment is a well known problem and I can see where arguing would get you nowhere.
Posted By: avideo4u

Re: Tourists found illegally snorkeling - 10/03/12 08:15 AM

faggamuffins seems more concerned they didn't get paid by 3 tourists. "3 un-named tourists thought that it would be a clever idea, to get out of paying for a licensed snorkeling trip. " As if any law is designed just to protect their own business interests and "THEIR" or "OUR" reef. While there are obvious advantages to a guide. It would seem silly to me to have a law that requires one. Maybe the 3 guys were not cheap - but just adventurous taking the kayak out to the reef. Please don't argue that "tour guides" will protect the reef and sea life. Raggamuffins probably called the cops, why else would it be so funny? Great way to kill your tourism.
Posted By: terriegym

Re: Tourists found illegally snorkeling - 10/13/12 07:21 AM

well this has got me slightly worried. Is there any maps of the boundries for the reserve areas, we are planning a visit in july and we would want to do a couple of guided snorkel trips to the reef. but for the rest of the 2 weeks we have 2 inflatable kayaks. and on usual holidays spend time on the water daily. as a family of 4 we could not afford to hire a guide for a day, never mind a few days.
Posted By: artisan

Re: Tourists found illegally snorkeling - 10/13/12 01:28 PM

Not to worry.
The island is only 1&3/4 miles long.
You can snorkel the reef north or south of it, or anywhere west of it on your own.
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