An online campaign to raise awareness against a tourism development approved on Cayo Rosario went viral on Wednesday, July 11th, coinciding with the launching of the website www.defendcayorosario.com.
Spearheaded by Ambergris Caye Citizens for Sustainable Development (ACCSD) organization, stakeholders in Belize and abroad were asked to join them in a massive collective post via their social media platforms including Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter in opposition to the said development. Shortly after midday, every participating entity posted through their social media pages the official Defend Cayo Rosario logo and the message, ‘We stand with the guides, businesses, and people of Ambergris Caye to say NO to dredging and NO to over-the-water structures in Belize’s Hol Chan Marine Reserve. Please see the website www.defendcayorosario.com to join us.’
According to ACCSD, the response was overwhelming and beyond expectations. “This clearly indicates that many people love the local environment around Ambergris Caye and have come to the conclusion that it is a unique environment that must be preserved at all costs. In 24 hours countless individuals, tour guides, businesses, and hotels in San Pedro and around the country joined the campaign,” stated the ACCSD. Some of them, including Go Fish Belize, shared the post in their newsletter, while El Pescador Lodge shared it with all of their guides, guests, and affiliated shops. Belize Fly/Tres Pescados shared with their followers from the floor of ICAST, the largest fishing/industry trade show in North America, currently taking place in Florida, USA. Other places on the island that have been very influential in the campaign are the Truck Stop, Las Terrazas and Oceana in Belize, who counts with 17,000 Instagram followers, and 21,000 on Facebook.
In the international arena, Orvis Fly Fly Fishing also shared the post with their 91,000 Instagram followers and 250,000 Facebook followers. Sage Fly Fishing also shared with their 125,000 Instagram followers and 62,000 Facebook fans. Meanwhile, Bonefish & Tarpon Trust posted the message to their 34,000 Instagram fans and 17,000 Facebook followers to see. Yellow Dog Fly Fishing and their 43,000 Instagram and 32,000 Facebook followers also shared their opposition towards the project followed by Richard Blanco, an artist who donated the logo in the post, with 17,000 Instagram followers.
ACCSD says that the campaign has received thousands of shares in social media and are pleased to say that it has reached a potential audience of well over a half a million people since it was launched on Wednesday. They have also received countless emails from around the world supporting the preservation of Belize’s natural environment.
The next step according to organizers is to keep the momentum going and continue the strong opposition against the proposed development on Cayo Rosario. It is expected that the overwhelming outcry over the past 24 hours will send a strong message to the Department of Environment, who approved the project’s Environmental Clearance of Plan (ECP). Advocators are also letting other entities like The San Pedro Town Council, the Hol Chan Marine Reserve Board of Trustees, Fisheries Department, Ministry of Tourism and the Belize Tourism Board know that an enormous audience is watching them and insisting that they make the right decision.
The San Pedro Sun reached out to Miguel Alamilla, Manager at Hol Chan, who explained that if the project has received their ECP it means that they can now apply for the necessary permits to carry on the development. He stated that they are monitoring the situation as the development is within the Hol Chan Marine Reserve. Alamilla, however, did not wish to further comment.
Cayo Rosario is a 10-acre privately owned island west of Ambergris Caye, packed with mangroves and teeming with wildlife. The tourism project planned for the island calls for 80% of it being constructed off the island as over-the-water structures. San Pedro residents are highly against the project, concerned about its potential environmental hazards, and the fact that the island is part of the finalized expansion of the Hol Chan Marine Reserve that supports the livelihood of many that work in the fly fishing industry.
The monumental expansion of Hol Chan was inaugurated on February 2015 with four additional areas. Some of these included an area called Bajos General Use Zone, II – Cayo Pajaro Conservation Zone, III followed by Bajos Conservation Zone, IV known as Cayo Rosario Conservation Zone.