On Wednesday, May 19, 2010, The San Pedro Sun received a copy of a letter signed by Mayor Elsa Paz of the San Pedro Town Council (SPTC) expressing the SPTC’s decision to “fully support the community’s position against this [Sea-Trek] venture. The community has expressed their concerns of the potential harmful effects to the reef and the loss of integrity in the area’s beauty and its preservation. Organizations such as Hol Chan Marine Reserve and Ambergris Caye Citizens for Sustainable Development have further expressed their concern on some aspects of the project.”
The Sea-Trek venture in question has been mired in controversy since it was first brought to light. Proposed by David Gegg of Discovery Expeditions, Sea-Trek would offer underwater helmeted walks at the Mexico Rocks area, an area which Gegg has maintained was recommended by the Mayor herself after the original choice of location, Tuffy, was deemed too sensitive by local fishermen and fishing and tour guide associations.
In a telephone conversation with Mayor Elsa Paz, The San Pedro Sun found out that the decision was made after taking into consideration the people’s outcry. As such, the San Pedro Town Council and Mayor are respecting the wishes of the tourism and environmental stakeholders and community at large. The letter further proposes the following:
1. That Sea Trek conducts (a) public consultation(s) to properly present its project to the community.
2. That the locations be properly studied before determining if it is the adequate location.
3. That the preservation of our national heritage, the Barrier Reed be the utmost priority and not risking it over offering a “different experience” or “marketing incentive” for the very industry it may put at stake.
It further reiterates that “At no point did the Council issue a letter of full support to this project, therefore; in order to avoid miscommunications the Council strongly suggests that the Ministry takes this into consideration.”
Based on the Environmental Compliance Plan (ECP), three entities are involved in the recommendation process: the Department of Lands, Belize Port Authority and the Local Government. According to Mr. Martin Alegria of the Department of Environment (DOE), if any of the three entities has reservations regarding the project in question, the DOE then recommends that the applicant reevaluate the proposal. Alegria further stated that if Mr. Gegg wishes to pursue the Sea-Trek venture, he would have to start in a different location. Being that the municipality of San Pedro, Ambergris Caye has rejected his request, Sea-Trek cannot operate in said municipality.