Friday, June 21, 2024

Ambergris Caye Fly-Fishing guides host peaceful protest at Cayo Rosario

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To show solidarity with fly fishers across the country and to continue sending a strong message against developments threatening their livelihoods, a group of fly-fishing guides held a peaceful protest in front of Cayo Rosario on Wednesday, May 15th. Cayo Rosario is a small island within the Hol Chan Marine Reserve Zone IV off the west coast of San Pedro, Ambergris Caye. The surrounding area is home to some of the best fly-fishing areas in the country, but a proposed tourist resort on the small island is of concern to many as it could disrupt their fishing grounds. Fly fishers on Ambergris Caye depend on this sports fishing activity involving the three protected species of bonefish, permit, and tarpon.
The peaceful protest also supported the fly-fishing community in the Placencia area in southern Belize. Their efforts in Placencia prompted the suspension of dredging operations conducted near an island known as Angelfish Caye. Fly fishermen in the area voiced their discontent loudly, saying such projects will affect their jobs and the environment. Currently, the Cabinet has discussed the situation, and according to Area Representative of Stann Creek West, which includes Placencia, Honourable Rodwell Ferguson, the Department of Environment will be given a notice to put a hold on the Angelfish Caye project until respective requirements are satisfied.
The fly-fishing community on Ambergris Caye expects a similar response to the proposed development at Cayo Rosario, which seems to be slowly progressing. Since 2018, this tourism development at Cayo Rosario has been feeling the pressure of fly-fishers and supportive island residents. Protesting in front of this caye was again necessary to keep the pressure and awareness on, as all fly-fishing guides believe the proposed development, which reportedly will include over-the-water structures, can disrupt the surrounding fly-fishing flats.

One of the guides spearheading the activity on Wednesday, Michael Peralta, shared that they already feel the effects of unsustainable development. He said that it is becoming challenging to find bonefish or permits as developments forced these species to leave the flats. “Sometimes, we must go further to look for this fish. We need to protect this industry, our environment, and our livelihoods,” he said. The fly-fishing industry is considered a multi-millionaire part of the tourism industry in Belize. Thousands of fly-fishers visit Belize yearly to experience this sport fishing in the Jewel. Other supporters at the protest rallied, crying out their disapproval of the planned construction of a resort on Cayo Rosario. They also called on the authorities, such as the Hol Chan Marine Reserve, to intervene, as developments should not be allowed within marine reserves. They stated that developers should use what is theirs and, in this case, build on the island, not over or on the seabed. On Thursday, May 16th, personnel from the Hol Chan Marine Reserve visited the construction site at Cayo Rosario and issued a stop order until the required permits for their project can be verified.
The solidarity and peaceful protest on Wednesday ended without any incidents. Upon arrival to the area, heavy machinery was observed on the caye, and guards were also around. The fly-fishing guides noted that this will not be the only protest. They plan to return with a larger crowd to continue voicing their disapproval. They hope the government and responsible agencies can intervene and find a solution that benefits all parties.

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