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San Pedro residents object to dredging in Hol Chan Marine Reserve

Posted: Friday, July 20, 2018. 9:14 am CST.

BBN Staff: Yesterday, Ambergris Caye Citizens for Sustainable Development (ACCSD) issued a statement informing that they have launched a social media campaign in opposition to over-the-water structures and dredging on Cayo Rosario within the Hol Chan Marine Reserve.

A new logo and website, DefendCayoRosario.com, was shared by individuals, groups and businesses in Belize and around the world to support the Tour Guides, Tour Operators, Fishing Guides and residents of Ambergris Caye who unanimously say NO to the destructive development in the reserve.

Cayo Rosario is a five-acre island on the leeward side of Ambergris Caye directly west of the Secret Beach area.

The caye is protected as part of the Hol Chan Marine Reserve, one of the top scuba and snorkeling sites in Belize.

A new development has recently been approved by the National Environmental Appraisal Committee (NEAC) to build 54 over-the-water cabañas on two piers, 50 on-land bungalows as well as a spa and restaurant on the small mangrove caye.

According to ACCSD, over social media and through their new website, overwhelming opposition to the development was shared with hundreds of thousands of people around the world.

On July 17, 2018, the Belize Tourism Association Industry (BTIA), the World Wildlife Federation (WWF), Oceana Belize, the Belize Institute of Environmental Law & Policy (BELPO) and the Belize Audubon Society all signed a letter and sent to San Pedro’s Mayor Daniel Guerrero asking him to take an official stand on the matter.

The Department of the Environment has spoken twice this week to the media about the Cayo Rosario project.

ACCSD noted that on July 16, 2018, Martin Alegria, the Chief Environmental Officer suggested to Love FM that the dredging for the Cayo Rosario project will not pose a serious threat.  He stated that the dredging will be “minimal and hopefully done manually”.

The Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) for the project calls for 55,000 cubic meters of dredging (over 80,000 metric tons of sand) – to fill in and around the island.

“This very seabed that will be dredged is an integral part of the Hol Chan Marine Reserve, nationally protected as the invaluable nursery for the Belize Barrier Reef and as the feeding grounds for our protected bonefish, tarpon and permit,” the statement explains.

The group’s stance remains firm – build on your island but do not build over the Hol Chan Marine Reserve or dredge within the protected area.

Many expert viewpoints were formally expressed to the members of the National Environmental Appraisal Committee (NEAC) during their approval process for this development.

They were unanimous against the Cayo Rosario project. Dr. Aaron Adams of the Bonefish &Tarpon Trust had expressed, “The development plan is ill-conceived, not appropriate for these habitats, and will damage the economically and culturally important flats fishery.”

On July 17, 2018, on Channel 5 News, the Minister of the Environment, Omar Figueroa suggested that the project is not massive and that significant concessions were made by the developer during the approval process.

The number of over-the-water bungalows was reduced from 90 presented during the public EIA meeting to the final 54.

ACCSD says that the approved project at Cayo Rosario will be one of the largest hotel developments not just on Ambergris Caye but in the entire country.

The large over-the-water footprint, the huge amount of dredging and the underwater pipelines to and from Ambergris Caye are unprecedented in Belize waters and a complete contradiction to the purpose of a marine reserve.

The group remains committed to saying NO to over-the-water and dredging development in Hol Chan Marine Reserve.

The ACCSD’s mission is to support and promote sustainable development on Ambergris Caye and its surrounding areas through education, awareness and citizen involvement.  


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