Posted: Thursday, February 17, 2022. 5:48 pm CST.
Photo Credit: Belize Audubon Society
By Rubén Morales Iglesias:
The Belize Audubon Society (BAS) honoured Jose Elito Arceo with the prestigious James A. Waight Award for conservation in a virtual ceremony on Wednesday, February 16.
The BAS Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary’s Protected Areas Manager, Roberto Rivero presented the award to Arceo.
“James A. Waight laid the foundation for the society as we know it, 53 years ago; this year’s winner takes to heart the organization’s tagline of ‘balancing people and the environment,’” said BAS Executive Director, Amanda Acosta
“Arceo truly believes the values of ethics and conservation in this country as he passionately works to protect the natural resources in the community in which he lives.”
Arceo said he was pleasantly surprised when he was informed he would be given the award.
“We are a young nation. So, while we welcome development, we have to ensure that development is sustainable, so that people who come to our shores, come to enjoy the very same thing that we are actually promoting,” said Arceo.
“So, we don’t want to be looked at, as destroying the very same thing that makes us Belize.”
The BAS said the James A. Waight Award is a hallmark event of the conservation community. It is given in the memory of one of the Belize Audubon Society’s (BAS) founding members and first president, James A. Waight. It is bestowed to individuals or organizations who have made a significant contribution, nationally or locally, to the conservation and enhancement of Belize’s natural environment.
Arceo grew up in a traditional fishing family in his native San Pedro, Ambergris Caye, and worked diligently over the years to protect the sea. The BAS said that as a businessman, Arceo has worked towards creating a balance between development and conservation.
According to the BAS, Arceo was nominated for the award by Sanpedrano Greg ‘Turtle Man’ Smith, who won the James A. Waight Conservation Award in 1992.
“Mr. Arceo has organized beach clean ups, fostered protection of mangroves and involved students in the island wide activities for many years including the Ambergris Caye, Eco Challenge,” said the BAS.
The beach cleanups are particularly important because they help in removing the sargassum and garbage that tides bring to the San Pedro beaches.
“His involvement has encouraged and promoted community awareness of issues including offshore drilling. Fellow conservationist Miguel Alamilla points out that Arceo was a key stakeholder on the island for the expansion of the Hol Chan Marine Reserve,” said the BAS.
The BAS also noted that Arceo keeps promoting good business practices like the implementation of Environmental Impact Assessments for developments that would otherwise negatively impact the island’s ecosystem.
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