Agreement signed at Bacalar Chico national park to improve the country’s marine reserve network
Tuesday, July 26th, 2022
The Bacalar Chico Marine Reserve in northern Ambergris Caye is considered by many island residents an area exploited by encroachers endangering the unique and protected wildlife in that area. Many concerned residents continue to report illegal fishing, clearing of land, and hunting. The area is also a critical nesting area for sea turtles, and respective authorities are urged to do something before it is too late. The Ministry of the Blue Economy and Civil Aviation (MBECA) is aware of the situation, and to continue the efforts to address the issue, the ministry participated in the signing of a subsidiary agreement between the Protected Areas Conservation Trust (PACT) and the Belize Fisheries Department to improve the management of the marine reserve network in the country.
The agreement to benefit protected areas like Bacalar Chico was signed on Friday, July 22nd, and the Belize Fisheries Department will execute it. The program is an initiative by PACT and forms part of the Conservation Investment Partnership Agreement signed in October 2019. This agreement was for financing an approved three-year program in support of PACT’s Conservation Investment strategy. This programing includes return on investments within Belize’s marine reserve network, including Caye Caulker, Sapodilla Cayes, Glover’s Reef, South Water Caye Marine Reserves, and Ambergris Caye’s Bacalar Chico.
The value of the three-year agreement; AC residents say more needs to be done
MBECA’S Minister, Honourable Andre Perez, was present to participate in the signing of this binding agreement. Valued at $1,150,000 under PACT’s targeted investment, the program is said to have provided tremendous support in improving management effectiveness within the network, particularly at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. Residents on the island question this statement as they claim little attention has been given over the years to the Bacalar Chico area. The presence of officers/rangers is inconsistent, while the natural resources and wildlife continue under threat.
In the statement issued by the government on Monday, July 25th, years one and two of the program are complete, leaving a total of $542,275.29 for the third and last year. The government stated that these remaining funds would be used to improve infrastructure and management across the network of marine reserves. The final implementation of the program’s phase will end on December 31, 2023.
In the meantime, residents in northern Ambergris Caye say they will continue denouncing such illegal activities in this important national park. They hope the respective authorities increase their presence and enforce the environmental laws. The Bacalar Chico national park is a designated World Heritage Site. This remote and wild area is home to jaguars, deer, pigs, pumas, ocelots, foxes, and other wild animals.
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