Wednesday, July 24, 2024

Hol Chan Marine Reserves address issues with in-water structure fees at Secret Beach

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The Hol Chan Marine Reserve (HCMR) has expanded over the years and now includes marine areas within the popular Secret Beach northwest of Ambergris Caye. Regulations restrict water structures in marine reserves. However, at Secret Beach, an agreement was made between HCMR and the stakeholders where they suggested a fee to keep the water structures. This agreement limits the amount of structures in the water and requires the use of environmentally friendly materials for building. A fee of $100 per structure per month was agreed upon. Some businesses have complied with this fee, while others have not. Hol Chan has indicated that this non-compliance is causing issues, as some establishments have fallen behind on payments, resulting in high arrears.
According to the management at HCMR, discussions to set a fee for water structures at the tourism area of Secret Beach began in September 2019, where a maximum of 15 water structures (tables) per establishment was considered. HCMR Executive Director Ian Pou stated that the initial suggested fee was very high, potentially costing stakeholders thousands of dollars monthly. Recognizing the need for a fair and balanced approach, he and his team worked with the stakeholders and negotiated to charge $100 per table in the water monthly. According to the ED, the fee collected assists the organization with funding their patrols at Secret Beach and enforcing regulations, particularly for WaveRunners (jet skis) that were reported to be operating near swimmers. This fee also supports a partnership with the San Pedro Police Formation to be present in the area.
However, not everyone is paying their dues, leading to a case of a particular establishment complaining about the high arrears. The ED and his team explained that this specific business owner agreed to the monthly fee and placed a request for water structures at the HCMR office in November 2022. They said the high arrears result from failure to comply with the monthly payments. It was also mentioned that, presently, only two establishments in the area are up to date with their accounts.
While water structures attract more business to the different establishments, Hol Chan reiterates that these additions are optional. If an establishment does not want to pay the fee, they can remove the structures. Businesses are also allowed to remove the water structures whenever the season is slow, and the structures can be placed back in the water when the tourism season improves. Hol Chan management asks that, when this is done, a notification should be made to their office, so they do not charge the stakeholders for the removed structures.
Despite not everyone paying the fees, the HCMR stated they continue with their operations at Secret Beach, trying to enforce the reserve’s regulations. They would like to do more, but they need the support from all stakeholders. The HCMR is committed to assisting and supporting the stakeholders in their compliance with the fee. Those with arrears can contact their office for any updates or inquiries. The HCMR office is located on Caribena Street, and its telephone number is 226-2247.

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