Ministry of Forestry and Fisheries to address ship groundings

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Adele Catzim Sanchez

Adele Catzim Sanchez

Tuesday, March 17, 2015. AARON HUMES Reporting: In recent months there have been multiple vessels grounding on the Belize Barrier Reef, threatening the health of the World Heritage Site and lifeblood of the Belizean sea.

On December 31, 2014, a French boat captain crashed his steel-hulled vessel into the reef near some coral rubble when he missed the channel near Caye Caulker.

Just last week, a 12-foot by 6-foot deep water submersible was spotted lodged on the reef about six miles north of San Pedro Town on Ambergris Caye in the Mexico Rocks area, causing significant damage to coral reefs in the area, according to a review undertaken by OCEANA Belize and associated scientists.

The Ministry of Forestry and Fisheries through its own Department of the Environment will undertake its own inquiry into the second incident and continues to work on the first.

But priority number one, according to CEO Adele Catzim-Sanchez, is removing the precariously lodged vessel from the reef, and that may be easier said than done. In fact, it may be necessary to break the ship apart to get it off, and for that it will need permission from the various authorities.

This incident and previous run-ins including the Westerhaven cargo ship near Glovers Reef, and Great Escape and Azteca near Ambergris Caye have forced the Ministry to develop its protocol for addressing incidents like these, drawing the line between uninhibited pleasure cruising of Belizean waters and lasting scars on the reef which provides such opportunities.

Efforts continue, says Catzim-Sanchez, to bring the captain of the Caye Caulker vessel to justice and the Ministry is working with the Office of the Solicitor General in that regard.

With regard to the Mexico Rocks incident, Catzim says the Ministry’s information is being developed by a team in the field which has yet to make a report.

An OCEANA press release on Monday indicated that based on markings and serial numbers on the Mexico Rocks vessel, it has been identified as a remote operated vehicle that was “reported as ‘lost’ in Trinidad and Tobago in November, 2014.”

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