Like the community of San Pedro, Ambergris Caye, the Hol Chan Marine Reserve relies on tourism to finance its management. In spite of having zero revenues due to the COVID-19 pandemic since March 2020, Hol Chan has continued carrying out its daily operations in the Reserve. After six months of no revenues, like most businesses on the island, the Hol Chan Marine Reserve is suffering; they are reaching out for assistance with a GoFund Me page.
Twenty one rangers have continued to patrol the waters of the reserve to ensure that when tourism resumes, the abundance of biodiversity that Hol Chan is known for, remains for future visitors to enjoy. The management team of Hol Chan stresses that with many unemployed persons turning to marine products to feed their families, the threat of poaching has increased significantly, and with no revenues, it is getting more challenging to maintain these patrols.
The livelihood of the residents of the San Pedro and Caye Caulker communities depend largely on tourism and fisheries. These communities are home to over 300 fishers, 625 tour guides, 91 tour operators, and their families, not to mention all persons employed in the hospitality industry. The success of the tourism and fisheries sectors of these communities is directly tied to the health of the surrounding marine ecosystems, which Hol Chan is entrusted with safeguarding.
Efforts in addressing many issues affecting the health of Belize’s coral reef have been seriously affected by COVID-19, along with other activities such as monitoring of the sea turtle nesting beaches in Ambergris Caye. In 2019, Stoney Coral Tissue Loss Disease, a very fast-moving coral disease with a 100% mortality if left untreated, was discovered inside the boundaries of the reserve.
Hol Chan outlines areas that will benefit from contributions as they will allow them to continue safeguarding the marine ecosystem for the livelihood fo the community and continued conservation of the reef:
Research and Monitoring
· Coral reef and disease monitoring
· Sea turtle nest monitoring
· Commercial species management
· 24 hour surveillance of the Reserve
· 24 hour protection of the biodiversity
· Utilization and Visitation Management
Education, Outreach and Stakeholder Engagement
Hol Chan Marine Reserve (HCMR), Belize, Central America, was established in 1987 as a community-based initiative to address conflicts between tourism and fishing use. The entire reserve covers approximately 161 square miles (417 sq. km) and is divided into eight zones: reef, seagrass beds, mangrove, no-take zones, and recreational zones. Hol Chan is a fisheries management tool to allow for sustainable use of resources while conserving critical biodiversity.