Blackadore Caye Development updates media on development plans
Thursday, May 26th, 2016
Blackadore Caye, a private island located west of Ambergris Caye, is about to undergo a major restoration process under the expertise of a development team contracted by mega-star Leonardo DiCaprio. The first public consultation held on January 14th regarding the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) on the development of the island raised many questions among many local stakeholders. After revisiting these concerns, the Blackadore Caye Development team invited the local media corps for a visit to the island on Thursday, May 26th for an onsite tour and informative session on the development.
The development group is comprised of local and international professionals, and is in the process of completing consultations prior to completing their second EIA, which will be then presented at a public consultation on Ambergris Caye.
During the visit to Blackadore Caye, attendees were provided with a presentation on the current status of the island’s development. Lead Consultant/Managing Director Dionne Chamberlain explained the main goal of the project in a global and local perspective. “The benefits in the global perspective will put the name of our country even higher as the pioneer of initiating an environmental concept that can be delivered worldwide,” said Chamberlain.
At the local level, the restorative project on the island is expected to generate a new revenue stream for the country. According to the presentation, it will create jobs, a new type of tourism and it will give exposure to the local people. “The jobs that will be available when Blackadore Caye is completed will not just be any ordinary employment, they will be green jobs,” said Chamberlain. “This new type of exposure will create awareness and encourage everyone to take care of the environment. At the same time, we will partner with the different educational institutions in order to promote a vast educational campaign in regards to green energy.” The plans include introducing vocational courses in schools, so that students can be trained and able to operate eco-friendly equipment such as solar panels. Some of the green technology planned to be used on the island, according to the presenters, has not yet been used anywhere in the world. Blackadore Caye will be the centre of training and point of reference in regards to restorative achievement and clean energy.
The island has undergone drastic changes during the last hundred years, and according to the developers the island is in desperate need of prompt assistance. Experts who are studying the island are suggesting that restoration is a must, or it will disappear in the upcoming years. Many years ago, the island was a great source for the coconut industry, and different types of game animals such as deer and wild boars habituated the island. At that time, the island was larger than its actual size today. It even had one of the only fresh water wells in the area. However, over time went its natural resources were greatly abused, depriving it of its fauna, sand and mangroves. As such, the island is rapidly eroding day by day. “Restoring the island is a must, we need to bring it back the way it was not one hundred, but two hundred years ago, however it will be a slow process, but it can be done,” said Chamberlain. In an effort to rapidly prevent the island from its continuous deterioration, mangroves will be planted around the island.
Many questions were answered during the presentation. The concern about access to the island by locals was ruled out. Anyone would be able to access the facilities of the island as it will host restaurants and other services open to the general public. Since there will be private homes on the island, some consideration is to be expected around these areas. The project will also benefit the livelihood of many by creating jobs, and when it comes to the environment, the project will count with proper and legal waste disposal.
After the presentation an onsite tour was conducted on the island by biologist Juan Rovalo. During the tour many of the coconut trees were observed with an orange dye around their trunks. Rovalo explained that it is due to fungi that is affecting all trees on the island. According to the biologist about 80% of the island is covered with hypersaline grass and Love grass. This grass has grown over three feet tall and is taking over the vegetation on the island after the erosion of the fertile soil that produced a coastal forest. “Instead of having a diverse thriving caye, we are having an ecologically hammered and ill caye,” said Rovalo. “In the remains of littoral forest, we still have around 30 species of plants between shrubs, palms and trees. This is the type of vegetation we should have on the island at the moment. However, due to the constant erosion, more salt water comes on to the surface of the island and thus, more hyper saline grass grows.” Rovalo stated that the grass has no benefits for the island, but rather promotes its further erosion, and once its coastal land is lost, nothing can bring it back.
Despite the ecological crisis on Blackadore Caye, around 29 species of fauna still make the island their home. Twelve of these species are actually permanent residents on the island, including three species of bats, one species of mice, hundreds of crabs, eight species of reptiles such as lizards, geckos and about three types of snakes, including boa constrictor.
While things do not seem well on the terrestrial area of the caye, its surrounding waters are a prime nursing ground for fish. According to Rovalo, there are hundreds of juvenile fishes harbouring around the island’s shores. “We also have commercial fishes living in these waters, bottom feeders such as permits and bonefish. 80% of the fish population observed was under 20 centimetres long, meaning that they hatch around this area and then leave. We want to enhance that, and with the reforestation of the mangrove plantation project, we expect this to change,” said Rovalo. It is expected that the rehabilitation of the littoral forest will not only increase the number and sizes of fish around the area, but prevent the erosion on the island.
These facts were also shared by local biologist Valentine Rosado who is working along with the team’s project to plant mangroves on the island’s shores. He believes that with a dense population of mangroves, more nursery areas will become available for different species of fish which will linger in the area, thus creating a healthy area for diverse populations of fishes to procreate.
It may not take five or ten years before Blackadore Caye is back to its green days again, however the development team assured that the restoration project is financially viable, and it will eventually be completed. When the project is finished it will count with a small eco-friendly hotel, village centre, estates, club house, wellness centre, ecology centre and employee housing.
The San Pedro Sun will continue to monitor and report on the Blackadore Caye development project. Their second public consultation is being planned, and we will keep you posted when it will take place.
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