The residents of San Pedro, Ambergris Caye, Belize are angry about the situation on Cayo Rosario. The Government of Belize has approved dredging on the island that sits within the Hol Chan Marine Reserve.
There is no doubt in San Pedro resident’s minds that both large scale dredging and massive over-the-water construction around the small island will pose a threat to the pristine flats of Cayo Rosario. They are some of the finest permit flats in the country. The fly fishing industry directly and indirectly supports 1000’s of jobs on Ambergris Caye and attracts many more visitors to the island each year.
With concerns of the imminent danger on and around the tiny island, last week, residents joined the newly ‘Defend Cayo Rosario’ group that is pushing a steadfast movement to prevent the destructive development in the area. The #DefendCayoRosario movement produced a website that was launched last week as residents took to their social media platforms to spread the word of their activism.
Residents were even more furious this week when Chief Environmental Officer stated to Belize City media that ‘dredging poses no threat to reserve’. Martin Alegria, Chief Environmental Officer, told Love News the following:
“The judging that I know that was approved at the site was the two access lanes for the barge and the boats to access during construction material and supplies and when operational it will be where the peers will be to bring in clients and so on so those are the two areas I recall given the go ahead to judge but its minimal and hopefully it is done manually. The bigger sourcing of material is what I think you are concerned about, that has been already clarified to them that has to be sourced outside the immediate area of the key because it is a marine reserve but not only that but you have conservation zone area that is a no no to do certain activities. There are general use areas which certain things are allowable and then in Southside the reserve and such, where you know it’s not as legally binding through the Marine protected areas laws.”
Cayo Rosario Project - Official Letter of Objection
With this, an official letter of objection on the Cayo Rosario Project was delivered yesterday, July 17, 2018, to San Pedro Town Mayor Daniel Guerrero at the San Pedro Town Council. The letter (posted below) was jointly signed by Belize Tourism Industry Association, WWF, Oceana, Belize Institute of Environment law and Policy and the Belize Audubon Society stating, “We write to inform that we stand with the guides, businesses and people of Ambergris Caye who say no to dredging and no to over-the-water structures in the Hol Chan Marine Reserve.”
Mayor Daniel Guerrero
San Pedro Town Council
Barrier Reef Drive San Pedro Town
July 17th 2018
Good day Mayor Danny,
We have been made to understand that approval of the Cayo Rosario project by the San Pedro Town Council and the Hol Chan Marine Board is pending. We write to inform that we stand with the guides, businesses and people of Ambergris Caye who say no to dredging and no to over-the-water structures in the Hol Chan Marine Reserve. We emphasize that the opposition of this project is rooted in the destruction of the sea floor via dredging and to the over-the-water structures that will impede the livelihoods of Belizean fishermen.
We are sure you have joined in the national celebration of the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization’s (UNESCO) recent decision to remove Belize’s World Heritage Site from the Sites In Danger list. One of the reasons we were put on the Sites In Danger list in 2009 was because of approved development activities that undermined the health and integrity of our World Heritage Site; places of universal and outstanding value. Given that the Hol Chan Marine Reserve is the oldest and most successful marine protected area in terms of ecosystem and fish stock protection, approval of unsustainable tourism development activities might once again raise questions about Belize’s responsible stewardship of her world renowned marine resources.
We also point out that the new Mangrove Act (attached) which came into law June 23rd, 2018 states:
“The issuing authority shall not issue a permit for the alteration or selective trimming of
(a) mangrovesinareasknowntobeanactivenestingsiteorrestingorbreedingareaforacolonyor conspicuous concentration of birds, including but not limited to pelicans, spoonbills, herons, storks, boobies, frigate birds, and egrets
(c) mangroves within existing national parks, nature reserves, wildlife sanctuaries, natural
monuments or other protected areas as defined and described in the National Protected Areas
*Priority areas include:
*Shipstern Lagoon and cayes to sea
*All other cayes (inside barrier and atolls)
*Ambergris Caye, Cangrejo
Review of the National Protected Areas System Act (attached) shows that the law also allows for the inclusion as ‘special management areas’ for protection of (e.g.) bird colonies. The NPAS Policy supports this with:
“Special Management Area” is recommended as an additional designation to cover areas in the landscape or seascape requiring management interventions. These would include (but not necessarily be limited to):
▪ Biological Corridors ▪ Bird Nesting Colonies ▪ Turtle Nesting Beaches
▪ River mouths in areas of high boat / manatee conflict (Belize River, Sittee River) Where feasible, cayes, inundated mangrove ranges and critical coastal fringing mangrove should be integrated within marine protected areas under the relevant site legislation...”
We therefore call on the San Pedro Town Council to not approve any dredging and over-the-water structures within the Hol Chan Marine Reserve by the Cayo Rosario project or any other pending/future development project to safeguard our invaluable marine resources and the Belizeans who depend on them daily.
We look forward to your response.
Belize Tourism Industry Association
Belize Institute of Environment law and Policy
Belize Audubon Society
To learn more visit the Defend Cayo Rosario website at www.defendcayorosario.com
Related Article: Residents Against Over-The-Water Development at Cayo Rosario!