Sunday, June 23, 2024

Cabinet endorses decision to make Turneffe Atoll a Marine Reserve


The Prime Minister of Belize Hon Dean Barrow and his Cabinet have endorsed the recommendation to have Turneffe Atoll declared a marine reserve. The announcement was made by the Minister of Forestry, Fisheries and Sustainable Development Hon. Lisel Alamilla via her social network page. The endorsement was made during the Cabinet meeting of Tuesday September 25th.

While the decision has been endorsed by Cabinet, Turneffe Atoll will only become a marine reserve after the Statutory Instrument (SI) is signed and taken to the House of Representatives for approval. The proposed Turneffe Atoll Marine Reserve is approximately 325,000 acres in size. The decision is monumental and will see a legislation establishing the Turneffe Atoll as Belize’s largest marine reserve which seeks to bring improved protection and much needed management to the atoll and its marine life. Speaking to The San Pedro Sun, Allamilla said that so far, Cabinet has only endorsed the decision but hopes that very soon the SI will be signed to declare the mentioned area a marine reserve. Alamilla also said that she hopes the signing of the SI will be done in a grand ceremony. While Alamilla would decline to speak in detail about the decision, she writes on her Facebook account that it took about 30 years to recognize that Turneffe Atoll needed to be declared a marine reserve and that it was finally agreed and it took the PM and his cabinet colleagues to take the “gigantic leap” and endorse the ministry’s recommendations.

When made into a marine reserve, provisions will be made in the SI to enact legislation that will seek to improve the enforcement and sustainable management of Turneffe’s commercial fishery. In addition, it will also seek to improve control and monitoring of future development. The legislation will also seek to address and ensure sustainable management of the atoll’s environmental, economic and social benefits for Belize as well as provide for scientific research and environmental monitoring for the atoll. It will allow for the support of catch and release sport fishing, scuba diving, snorkeling and other sustainable tourism activities.

Establishing Turneffe Atoll as a marine reserve is critical to the protection of Turneffe from destructive development pressures, as well as for the effective long term management of the atoll. As such, in of June 2010, the Turneffe Atoll Trust was established with its main objective to lead the effort to establish the Turneffe Atoll Marine Reserve. The 280 page document was send to Cabinet in January of 2012 after which PM Barrow decided to embrace the decision on September 25th. The Turneffe Atoll is the largest of three atolls in Belize.

Below is a gallery of images of Turneffe Atoll taken during Lighthawk flyover with ACES.

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