Monday, April 15, 2024

Minister of the Blue Economy comments on the proposed development of Cayo Rosario


The controversial Cayo Rosario development off the western coast of Ambergris Caye is again a concern to residents of San Pedro Town. The proposed tourism development, which has received environmental clearance and green light for construction, includes over-the-water structures. These buildings will be erected above protected fishing flats – the bloodline of the local flyfishing industry. The area also lies in the middle of the Hol Chan Marine Reserve. For these reasons, stakeholders continue to oppose the development and hope that the new administration will intervene and save the multi-million-dollar industry, which is the livelihood of many.

In November 2020, the new government created the Ministry of the Blue Economy manned by Area Representative for Belize Rural South (Ambergris Caye and Caye Caulker), the Honourable Andre Perez. In a recent interview, Perez touched on the delicate topic calling it ‘very controversial.’ He said that it has many implications because it sits in the middle of a marine reserve- the Hol Chan Marine Reserve. “In tourism, there is something called fly fishing. It fetches thousands of dollars. This a sport for rich people; there is big money involved,” said Perez. “So, whenever you are talking about Cayo Rosario, it sits in the middle of this very precarious situation,” Perez added that this is something his government inherited from the previous administration. Now he must deal with it and decide how to proceed, even though the project has already been approved.

Initially, the Cayo Rosario project planned to build more than 80 over-the-water structures. Following overwhelming objections by local stakeholders, including the Ambergris Caye Citizens for Sustainable Development and the San Pedro Belize Tourism Industry Association, the developer was forced to downsize. According to Perez, the National Environmental Advisory Board and the Department of Environment approved building a limited amount of these structures. Perez was clear that the developer can build over the water but cannot dredge. This is the worst fear as it could alter the flats where fly fishing thrives. “The dredging cannot occur,” Perez pointed out. “They need to bring filling for the island from somewhere else.”

Some stakeholders were unhappy when Perez stated, “Perhaps, we can take Cayo Rosario as a clear model of what is the Blue Economy, where the investor can benefit, but the fisher folks will not lose their waters, and then, the environment is preserved.”

In March 2020, development began on the 10-acre mangrove island when a massive stretch of stones was piled on the seabed, building a temporary bulkhead. An inspection by the Hol Chan Marine Reserve indicated that the permit to construct the bulkhead was violated because it was placed at the wrong location of the island.

The Sun will continue following this controversial development.

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