AIR BOAT CONTROVERSY
April 14, 1999
Dear Hon. Briceneo
Dear Minister Briceneo,
As requested, I am writing to you to update you on the environmental and tourism problem that Green Reef is currently addressing: the disruptive air boat activity of Mr. Kevin Gonzalez. I first want to apologize for the delay in sending this information to you, but as you know, I have recently had family obligations to attend to.
As you may already be aware, Green Reef is the only local environmental conservation and educational NGO in San Pedro Town. We have been active over the past two years in environmental education, advocacy and preservation, developing and implementing such initiatives as the GEF funded Reef Mooring Buoy project, school environmental education curricula, and public awareness events such at the Annual Reef Festival. Green Reef has worked very hard to support tourism on Ambergris Caye via the recent development of the Tourism and Ecology Learning Center. Our combined role as the principal developer of the Learning Center and as an environmental NGO, places us in a unique position of hearing the complaints of the community and addressing problems of environmental concern, as well as those of the Eco-tourism industry.
Since February, the issue of the air boat, used by Mr. Gonzalez, the former Director of the Belize Tourist Board, has been a pressing concern of Green Reef's. In addition, members of the fishing community, the San Pedro Tour Guide Association, the Belize Audubon Society, and El Pescador have made multiple complaints regarding Mr. Gonzalez's inconsiderate use of his boat.
The boat makes an extraordinary amount of noise, therefore disrupting fish and bird activity. The area where the air boat is used, on the leeward side of Ambergris Caye, is a significant locale for sports fishing and bird watching. When his boat passes, large disturbances are created, driving fish off the flat areas, disturbing fishermen in the area, as well as scaring off birds. Moreover, there are reports of Mr. Gonzalez running his boat at high speed in the mangroves, an obtrusive activity that seriously affects the feeding grounds of local wildlife that depend on these wetlands for sustenance. There are recent reports of mangroves being cleared so that Mr. Gonzalez's air boat can more easily pass through these areas. The negative impact of this activity is something that can no longer be tolerated.
Green Reef has been a leader in the protection of marine areas and we manage two bird sanctuaries at the leeward side of Ambergris Caye. We are also lobbying to acquire and protect additional neighboring islands and wetlands used by birds for nesting and feeding. Thus, we are very concerned about the continued air boat activity, as well as the two air boats that are soon to be added to Mr. Gonzalez's business. We are asking for you assistance in stopping and preventing these types of operations. Please take it upon yourself to personally address this serious issue.
Thank you for your attention and please contact us as soon as possible regarding this issue.
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