at the Hol Chan Marine Reserve office. Present for the ceremony were Mrs. Velda Aguet, Chairperson of the National Steering Committee for the Global Environmental Facility-Small Grants Programme (GEF-SGP); Ms. Rene Ogaldez, Community Management of Protected Areas Conservation Project (COMPACT) Coordinator; Mr. Sean Finnity, Program Officer for United Nations Development Programme (UNDP); Mr. Philip Balderamos, National Coordinator for Global Environmental Facility-Small Grants Program; Mr. Mito Paz, Executive Director of Green Reef Environmental Institute; Mr. Manuel Heredia, Chairman of Caribeña Producers Cooperative Society; Hol Chan Marine Reserve and Bacalar Chico Marine Reserve staff members, Mrs. Mirza Trejo and several San Pedro fishermen.
Mrs. Velda Aguet first presented a check for $45,000 to Mr. Manuel Heredia of Caribeña Co-op to implement their project entitled "Assessment of Commercially Important Species in Bacalar Chico Marine Reserve Utilizing Traditional Commercial Fishermen" which will run from now until March 2003. This is the first of three payments that will be made to this project; for which a total grant of $99,000 has been approved. This grant is being made possible through the initiatives of the United Nations Development Programme/Global Environmental Facility Small Grants Programme (UNDP/GEF-SGP) and is being funded by the United Nations Foundation and the Global Environmental Facility.
Earlier this year, an agreement was signed between Caribeña Producers Cooperative Society and COMPACT for funding to carry out studies in Bacalar Chico Marine Reserve (BCMR). Upon receiving the check, Mr. Heredia thanked the organizations involved for making this grant possible and stated that by having the stakeholders and technical experts work together, they can achieve their desired goals. The local fishermen working on this project are: Florentino "Tino" Gonzalez, Samuel Gonzalez, Omero Graniel, Eleazar Rivero, Manuel Acosta, Edmundo Castillo, Arman-do Acosta, Ricardo Acosta, Javier Graniel and Sergio Acosta. The technical staff consists of Green Reef's Mito Paz and Marine Biologist Greg Smith.
Mrs. Aguet also presented a $20,000 cheque to Mr. Mito Paz of Green Reef to use for their project entitled "Increasing Manatee Conservation Awareness and Compliance in Coastal Belizean Communities". Grant monies totaling $98,555 have been received for this project. The project objectives are to: 1) Increase public awareness of manatee conservation needs, the legal basis for their protection, their economic value for tourism, and the importance of the protected areas that have been specifically designated for their protection in Belize; and 2) Decrease annual mortalities of manatees caused by human activities, particularly those resulting from hunting, boating, and habitat loss in Belize.
Mr. Paz was happy to report that Miss Dilcia Trejo of San Pedro Town was selected to attend a Conservation Education Course at the University of Kent in England and that she is doing well in her studies. Mr. Paz stated that this first installment will be used for the logistical support of the environmental education, which will include a salary for the educator, and other "overhead" expenses incurred by Green Reef. He ended by thanking UNDP/GEF-SGP for their involvement in protecting and conserving Belize's natural resources.