Monday, April 15, 2024

ACCSD disappointed over the management of Bacalar Chico National Park given to a mainland organization

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The co-management agreements signed with conservation partners last month (March) for a number of protected areas raised eyebrows in San Pedro, Ambergris Caye, when it was revealed that the Bacalar Chico National Park, located north of the island, would be managed by the Sarteneja Alliance for Conservation and Development (SACD). This led the non-governmental organization (NGO) Ambergris Caye Citizens for Sustainable Development (ACCSD) to register its disappointment as they stated they had been working on a plan with government authorities to manage the protected area. In an official note released on Monday, April 3rd, they indicated that they were not consulted in such an important matter despite their interest in being part of Bacalar Chico’s administration.
The ACCSD strongly noted their dissatisfaction in the note addressed to the Area Representative and Minister of the Blue Economy and Civil Aviation, Honourable Andre Perez, and Minister of Sustainable Development, Climate Change, and Disaster Risk Management, the Honourable Orlando Habet. According to the letter, in 2020, they were approached by the Ministry of the Blue Economy to possibly co-manage the Bacalar Chico protected area. The ACCSD indicated that they started a process to establish a relationship with the government and work on the co-management of the said national park. The letter continues by mentioning that late in 2020, the NGO met with Minister Perez and his Chief Executive Officer in the Ministry of the Blue Economy and continued planning on the way forward.The letter notes that after a productive meeting, it was agreed that the ACCSD would be the co-management partner. As such, a draft management engagement plan was to be produced and submitted to Belize Fisheries Department. ACCSD said in their letter that the draft plan was submitted, but the process for its complication stalled. ACCSD also mentioned that attempts to continue the dialogue were fruitless. When it was announced on March 16th that SACD would be co-managing the Bacalar Chico National Park, ACCSD said they were shocked and disappointed because their government partners did not consult with them.  The NGO stressed that the national park in northern Ambergris Caye is a crucial component of the island’s livelihood regarding tourism and the fishing industry.
ACCSD is concerned as to why their proposal was reportedly not reviewed. They also want to know why San Pedro, Ambergris Caye, the primary stakeholders of Bacalar Chico, was not notified or consulted about any other co-management agreement. They also want to know if future consultations will be conducted regarding properly managing the said protected area. ACCSD is seeking a meeting with the ministries to determine the best solution.
National Biodiversity Office in Habet’s Ministry weighs in
Minister Perez was contacted regarding the matter, but no comments were provided. The National Biodiversity Office, however, in the Ministry of Sustainable Development, Climate Change, and Disaster Risk Management, explained. According to its Director Saul Cruz, they went through a consultative process to develop the co-management framework for the co-management agreement. Cruz said this included the engagement of their sister ministries and departments, including the Ministry of the Blue Economy, Ministry of Finance, and Fisheries Department, among other entities. The submissions and the call for the partnership for protected areas are under the jurisdiction of the minister responsible for the National Protected Areas System Act. Such communication needs to be done with the Ministry of Sustainable Development, Climate Change, and Disaster Risk Management. “The SACD, they have traditionally managed the Corozal Bay Wildlife Sanctuary for over 15 years, and their engagement with this ministry and the National Biodiversity Office has been constant,” said Cruz. “The management of the Bacalar Chico National Park by its category falls within the jurisdiction of this Ministry of Sustainable Development.” The National Biodiversity Office noted that they have never communicated with ACCSD, which may have been because they engaged the Ministry of the Blue Economy. Cruz said ACCSD should have been advised that their discussions had to be with the Ministry of Sustainable Development, particularly with the National Biodiversity Office.

Co-management agreement Signed

Cruz said if ACCSD would like an audience with his office, they will be more than willing to welcome them. In the meantime, an inclusive governance mechanism will be put in place. Even though SACD has the co-management of Bacalar Chico National Park, the input of the stakeholders on Ambergris Caye will be included to administer the national park affairs efficiently.

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