2 Changes affecting our community

The Island Newspaper, Ambergris Caye, Belize            Vol. 16, No. 4            January 26, 2006

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Long Line Fishing in Belize
   Information reaching the SPSun office this past week was of a Japanese company acquiring a permit to long-line fish in Belizean waters. Although long-line fishing is a practice which is prohibited in almost every country in the world, it unfortunately is not illegal in the country of Belize.

   Long line fishing is a commercial fishing technique that uses hundreds or even thousands of baited hooks hanging from a single line. Studies have shown the method to be detrimental not only to the various species of fish, but to birds and turtles as well, as they are caught on the many hooks.

   In an interview with James Azueta, Ecosystems Management Unit Coordinator in the Fisheries Department, The San Pedro Sun found out that this controversial practice is indeed legal in our country. Any fisherman with the proper resources can acquire a permit to carry out this practice, and as long as it is not done in marine (protected) reserves. In New Zealand, where this practice is common, there is a limit of 25 hooks per line. In Belize, however, there is no set limit. According to Azueta, the long-line fishing being done in the country differs slightly from other parts in the world since it is not done, horizontally but vertically. Or, in other words, some consider deep sea long line fishing to be less detrimental to the environment. In Belize, there are presently two permits that are approved or two vessels are currently long-line fishing.

   In response to Japanese companies acquiring rights to carry out this practice, Azueta stated that no such permit has been granted. Apparently a Japanese company is going to do is carry out a workshop where Belizeans will be taught the proper way to long-line fish in our Caribbean waters.

4 storey buildings approved!

   For long, many have complained of the rapid development occurring in Ambergris Caye. Many brace the idealized notion of a small sleepy village but change is inevitable. One of the biggest changes that for long has been fought and is now proving to be a lost cause is the issue with four storey buildings. This week, The San Pedro Sun received contradictory information of permits approved for the construction of four story structures. A reliable source commented that indeed two permits had been approved one on the Boca Ciega Area and the other six to seven miles on North Ambergris Caye. Chairperson for the Ambergris Caye Housing and Planning Committee (ACHPC), Mel Spain stated that only one permit had been approved in the Holiday Lands Area.

   Mayor Elsa Paz, ex-officio member of ACHPC commented that she had no idea that these permits had been approved. In an interview with The San Pedro Sun last week, Mayor Paz stated, “I don’t agree with it because I believe that we have to address infrastructure first before we can entertain a four-storey building, especially because of the sewer problem. We need to extend the sewer first. On the north side of the island we need infrastructure first, even there.” However, a letter addressed to Mel Spain, Chairperson for ACHPC, clearly states the San Pedro Town Council’s position. Through this medium the San Pedro Town Council endorses/supports the proposal to construct edifices four (4) stories high in the municipality of San Pedro Town. This letter of endorsement/support is conditional provided that these four (4) stories structures do not exceed 44 feet in height and are constructed in the outskirts of town. On Tuesday, Mayor Paz was given the opportunity to clarify her position in this issue. She commented, “Development is going to come whether we want it or not, we are never going to be able to stop development. We have to live with reality, you can’t keep saying “no”.

   A consultation held at the San Pedro Town Hall in mid-2005 with realtors, contractors and government officials, revealed that most of those attending approved the construction of four-story buildings. A fact that Mayor Paz agreed with in last week’s issue where she stated, “Out of the entire group only three people were against the idea of four-storey buildings. ACHPC took the recommendations and shortly after approved the first four-storey structure in Ambergris Caye.

   Chairperson Spain explained that proposals being considered for four stories can only be constructed in the outskirts of town, namely the area after Holiday Lands and Boca Ciega and from Mexico Rocks to Basil Jones. Structures are limited to 44 feet and buildings which will be erected of a three-storey height should be limited to 38 feet.

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