Boat rally against Cayo Rosario development held prior to public meeting
Monday, May 14th, 2018
Hoping to send a strong message against development on Cayo Rosario, a small island within the Hol Chan Marine Reserve Zone IV on the northwest coast of Ambergris Caye, a large crowd of island residents convened in front of the caye on Sunday, May 13th in a peaceful protest.
The event was spearheaded by active members of the island community who are opposing the tourism project that will include 40 over-the-water structures at the southern tip of Cayo Rosario. This part of the project is considered a threat to the future of some of the most important fishing flats around the island that supports the fly fishing industry. As such, a public meeting has been scheduled for Tuesday, May 15th, starting at 5:30PM inside the San Pedro Lions Den. The public is invited to come out and discuss the next step on this sensitive matter.
Many of the supporters at the rally were fly fishing tour guides who have traditionally used the area for many years. Over 25 boats anchored on the leeward side of Cayo Rosario, the sounds of the Belizean National Anthem filling the air as more boats arrived. Soon thereafter, the gathering began their rallying cry: ‘We do not agree! No over the water structures, respect Belize’s marine protected areas!”
Handwritten billboards blasted similar messages: ‘Build on your island, not on the sea, leave something for future Belize and me!” Even a few children joined in the protest to protect their future, their colorful banners proclaiming, ‘My future is not for sale,’ and ‘I will be the voice that will change the world.’
One of the organizers of the event, MJ Leslie, stated that Cayo Rosario is a traditional fishing grounds and bird sanctuary, thus, it should be protected. He noted that the building of such a tourism project will be quite detrimental to the livelihood of the tourism and fishing community on Ambergris Caye. “We must protect it for the children, who are the next generation to make a living in the fishing industry,” he said. Many of the tour guides that attended the protest shared that they are not against development, but they do not welcome the idea of over-the-water structures.
The concerned islanders also reiterate their stand that building on the seabed is a violation of the ‘Queens Land’ regulation, which stipulates that all land up to 66 feet from the high water level is considered national land. They claim that if the developers want to develop the island they should build everything on the island itself and not over the water.
Another issue that has disturbed people is the fact that Cayo Rosario is within a marine protected area, and is a haven for mangroves and several bird species. They hope that their movement sensitizes the local authorities on this issue and pushes them to make an effort to seek a fair solution.
Cayo Rosario ended up in the hands of developer David Mitchell when the Government of Belize allegedly ceded the island as compensation for a property sold to Mitchell in Caye Caulker was erroneously sold. Then in 2015, the island was acquired by a group of investors, including island realtor John Turley. Currently, the development of the island is apparently in the hands of Turley and his business partner Daniel Kalenov, who have been seeking investors for the construction of the resort on Cayo Rosario.
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