Posted: Friday, March 26, 2021. 5:47 pm CST.
By Aaron Humes: According to concerned citizens in San Pedro Town, Ambergris Caye, there has been increased reports of illegal activities occurring within the Bacalar Chico National Park and associated marine reserve in the immediate north of the island.
A joint statement from the Ministries of Sustainable Development, Climate Change, and Disaster Risk Management and the Blue Economy describes “relentless encroachers [continuing] to raid the resources” of the area, mentioning hunting and trading of game species and clearing of vegetation in the protected area.
Any activity of this type is prohibited by the National Protected Areas System Act, the Wildlife Protection Act, the Forest Act and the Fisheries Act, on penalty of $20,000 in fines and/or 2 years imprisonment if caught in the National Park, and fines of up to $5,000 in the Marine Reserve.
The National Park and Marine Reserve, first recognized in 1996, is co-managed by the Government and Green Reef Environmental Institute, an NGO based in San Pedro Town.
The area is known for its high biodiversity, including swamp, grassland and littoral ‘beach’ forest, and various species of animals including all six of Belize’s recognized wild cats, the white-lipped peccary, manatees and crocodiles and nesting beaches for loggerhead, green and hawksbill turtles.
The statement says, “Protected areas are established to safeguard essential resources which are needed for the proper functioning of environmental services but also for their contribution to our economy through wildlife eco-tourism and sustainable fisheries. Over-harvesting of our natural resources can negatively affect us by drastically reducing food sources over a short period of time as well as cause damage to the environment which provides us with essential services such as reducing land erosion.”
The public is asked to please contact the Forest Department at 822-1524 or the Fisheries Department at 224-4552 to report any illegal activities.
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