Tuesday, April 23, 2024

Climate Crisis Response must be Science Based, Legal and Community Led

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The climate crisis playing out along Belize’s coast and cayes is further evidence of the grim consequences of a fossil fuel-driven planet. Several parts of our coastline and a number of popular islands, which generations of Belizeans once enjoyed, have been dramatically and irrevocably reclaimed by the sea. This is what is happening to South Silk Caye in the Gladden Spit Silk Cayes  Marine Reserve. 

Also known as the Queen’s Cayes, the three Silk Cayes: North, Middle, and South, have been under direct threat from erosion for several years. The appropriate response to the situation has been hampered by several factors including lost funding for necessary scientific work. In fact, no scientific studies have been conducted at the Silk Cayes with respect to reclamation. Other hindrances include lockdowns during the Covid-19 global pandemic and poor communication between the site’s co-managers and stakeholder communities.  

The BNN, therefore, empathizes with the residents of Placencia, Seine Bight, and Monkey River who channeled their efforts and resources to be physically and financially responsible for the crisis. That is admirable. What is regrettable is that this work proceeded without any of the legally required permits, which diminishes this otherwise patriotic demonstration of people’s power.  

As the collective representative of co-managers of both marine and terrestrial protected areas,  we, therefore, take this opportunity to remind all Belizeans that under the Fisheries Resources Act  15(1):  

a person commits an offense who, in any marine or inland water reserve, without a license granted by the Fisheries Administrator or without permission granted under section 16, as the case may be—(c) in any way disturbs, alters, or destroys the natural environment; (d)  constructs or erects any buildings or any structures on or over any land or waters within such a reserve.  

Given the precedent-setting implications of such cases, the BNN has written to the Ministry of  Blue Economy and Civil Aviation expressing our interest in fully participating in the collective effort to identify science-based, legal, and community-engaged responses to what’s happening to the Silk Cayes. We maintain that this situation can be a teaching moment on multiple fronts given that the climate crisis will continue to negatively impact our coast and cayes.  

We also publicly reiterate our commitment to holding ourselves and others publicly accountable to fulfilling organizational mission statements and consistently upholding the laws of Belize without fear or favor. We therefore also take this opportunity to encourage the general public to continue to report any activities, marine or terrestrial, being conducted without legally required and publicly posted permitting documents.  

For many years, we’ve talked about climate change. Now we are realizing the climate crisis is here. So too must our behaviors change if we are to meaningfully mitigate impacts and successfully adapt to the new climate reality. 

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