Fisheries - CZMA/I differ on management of MPAs

The Island Newspaper, Ambergris Caye, Belize            Vol. 10, No. 44            November 30, 2000

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A seminar was held last Friday to submit proposals concerning the improvement of the management of Belize's marine protected areas. Members of Fisheries Department, Coastal Zone Management Authority and Institute (CZMA/I), Programme for Belize, the World Wildlife Fund, various Marine Reserves and Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) were in attendance.

    The seminar, postponed since October because of Hurricane Keith, was held to provide a means for interested parties to contribute their ideas and comments on the management of this country's marine protected areas. Although informative, it was mentioned by some attendees that presentations were lengthy and therefore offered limited time for discussion, disappointing many who attended. However, ongoing consultations with stakeholders and the general public are being scheduled for further input. Fisheries is scheduled to meet with San Pedro Tour Guide Association in the next week.

    Speakers and their subjects were Janet Gibson, Director, CZMA/I - MPA (Marine Protected Areas) Evaluation Methodology; Melanie McField, Consultant, CZMA/I - MPA Evaluation Results; George Myvett, Senior Fisheries Officer, Fisheries Department - Policy and Legislation; James Azueta, Ecosystems Management Officer/MPA Coordinator, Fisheries Department - Proposed Marine Protected Areas Network Initiative; and Dr. Vincent Palacio, Technical Coordinator, Programme for Belize - Generating Revenues for MPAs through Ecotourism.

    Fisheries' initiative is to basically divide the marine protected areas of Belize into three zones: North, Central and South Belize. Bacalar Chico National Park/Marine Reserve, Hol Chan Marine Reserve and Caye Caulker Marine Reserve would all be included in the northern zone. This proposal would eliminate individual management and advisory committees for each reserve and instead create one managing team/advisory board for each zone. All zones would be under the main management of the Fisheries Department. Further proposed was that MPA entrance fees encompass all reserves in the zone, so that several attractions be enjoyed by tourists for one ticket price. One example of this being that the Northern Zones' three MPAs all be available for one ticket price whether the tourist chooses to see all three or not. Comments on the proposal were that it would eliminate over-spending by cutting back on multiple rangers, biologists, management and administrative personnel. Potential problems mentioned were that MPAs would lose their autonomy. It was further questioned how incoming fees and funds would be divided.

    Coastal Zone presented its ideas concerning management and their recent evaluation of Belize's managed MPAs. They found through their studies the main deficiency is in administration, although it varied by management model. Ratings of the different types of management showed administration of the NGO-managed MPA as satisfactory; the "semi-autonomous," management shared by NGO and government, to be moderately satisfactory; and the government-managed reserves to be minimally satisfactory. Their chief recommendation was to remove the responsibility from the already over-burdened Fisheries Department, utilizing the CZMA/I or some other autonomous responsible body for management. Short term recommendations included the need for standardizing training, communications, planning and reporting.

    Another solution brought to the table was an "amalgamated" or unified management team comprised of CZMA/I and Fisheries. This reportedly came as a surprise to many who stated they had no advanced notice of this consultation taking place.

    More discussion and input is needed before a final decision is made, therefore consultation and evaluations continue. Anyone requiring further information may contact Fisheries at 02-44552 or Coastal Zone Management Authority/Institute at 02-35739/30719/32616.
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