Press Release – Ambergris Caye Citizens for Sustainable Development – August 31, 2018
We need to send a message to the elected powers that be.
Our patrimony is not for sale. Our livelihoods are disposable. Our future is not discretionary.
In 2015, our Area Representative Manuel Heredia Jr. and San Pedro Mayor Daniel Guerrero successfully proposed that the Hol Chan Marine Reserve be expanded to include over 135 square miles of seagrass beds, wetlands, mangrove cayes, shoals and flats. The purpose? To forever preserve an invaluable nursery for out Belize Barrier Reef and safeguard vital habitats for the protected and economically lucrative, permit, tarpon and bonefish species.
But now this very area is in immediate danger, threatened by a development project on and around a tiny mangrove island named Cayo Rosario, located well within the Hol Chan Marine Reserve. Large scale dredging and massive over-the-water construction has been approved by the National Environmental and Appraisal Committee – NEAC (see members below). This approval flies in the face of strong opposition to the project from islanders and their leaders.
Both our Area Representative, the Minister of Tourism – Hon. Manuel Heredia Jr. and Gary Greif from the San Pedro Town Council, have publicly expressed their opposition to this project.
If Ambergris Caye and its elected officials are not in favour of Cayo Rosario, who is pushing for it to be approved?
Our community is heavily dependent on the integrity of our marine resources for both tourism and fishing. Defending Cayo Rosario and the Hol Chan Marine Reserve is not just about a “few fly fishing guides”.
Fly fishing is a huge industry for this country – the economic impact was estimated at over $110mm in 2013. It touches all of us – from our local airlines to taxi drivers to restaurants, bars and shops to hotel employees – the industry is critical to the sustained growth of Ambergris Caye.
If this project’s approval is finalized, with 40+ over-the water structures and more than 50,000 cubic meters of dredging, it only puts our tourism industry at risk, it will set a slippery-slope precedent for these types of developments that can take place within any marine protected area in our country.
We, the citizens of Ambergris Caye, demand a seat at the decision-making table, especially when the decisions being made threaten our livelihoods. We have a right to participate in a transparent process that will strengthen our regulations and their enforcement meant to protect our marine resources.
Belize is so incredibly blessed. We only curse ourselves when we destroy our natural environment in the name of “development” for the private gain of a few. If we grow sustainably, we will ensure that our way of life, our professional sport fishing and tourism jobs, our beautiful heritage will work to provide for all of us today and allow for prosperity in generations to come.
We call on all Belizeans and all Belizean Leaders to reject the Cayo Rosario project. We call on all Belizeans to stand with the guides, businesses and people of Ambergris Caye to say NO to the dredging and NO to the over-the-water structures in Belize’s first and most successful marine protected area: the Hol Chan Marine Reserve.
Today it is our protected area, our future – tomorrow it could be yours.
*13 NEAC Board Seats:
NEAC Chairman, The Chief Environmental Officer – Martin Alegria
Commissioner of Lands and Surveys – Wilbert Vallejos
Director of Health Services, Principal Public Health Inspector – John Bodden
Chief Forest Officer – Wilbur Sabido
Director of Fisheries – Beverly Wade
Chief Meteorologist – Catherine Cumberbatch
The Director of Geology and Petroleum – Andre Cho
The Chief Engineer. Ministry of Works – Lennox Bradley Jr.
Coastal Zone Authority – Samir Rosado and Arlene Maheia Young
Human Development Representatives – Cynthia Williams and Michele Irving
BTIA Representative – Michael Heusner
TIDE Representative – Joe Villafranco
U of B Representatives – Cecy Castillo