Changes coming to Bacalar Chico National Park under the SACD Management

Thursday, April 20th, 2023

Following the co-management agreement signed between the Government of Belize and conservation organizations in March of 2023, the Sarteneja Alliance for Conservation and Development (SACD) will oversee the management of the terrestrial portion of the Bacalar Chico National Park in northern Ambergris Caye. While some island residents have reported no management activities within the area, the SACD explained they are working on a strategic plan to look after Bacalar Chico with the involvement of island organizations and stakeholders.
SACD is a non-governmental organization (NGO) promoting the conservation and sustainable use of marine resources for the benefit of present and future generations. Located in Sarteneja, a traditional fishing village in the northern Corozal District, it also co-manages the Corozal Bay Wildlife Sanctuary alongside the Belize Forestry Department.
The NGO’s Executive Director, Joel Verde, explained that islanders could soon expect more presence at Bacalar Chico to monitor and deter illicit activities such as illegal hunting, logging, and unregulated development projects. Having only recently taken the reins of the national park, SACD is currently organizing an initiative to engage stakeholders in San Pedro Town, Ambergris Caye. “We are only custodians and are allowed to try and improve the management of the protected area by establishing a presence and applying enforcement, research, and monitoring. There is the need to start quantifying the area’s biodiversity and documenting it as well,” said Verde. He reiterated the need for community involvement, stating that they “cannot manage the national park on their own; thus, they need the island community’s support.”

Joel Verde

SACD is developing the management plan and intends to engage San Pedranos, different business community sectors, local authorities, and other NGOs in consultations before implementing any management strategy. Some islanders asked to participate in these consultations include those who own property within this protected area. SACD is committed to improving the national park and Ambergris Caye in general. In addition, with Bacalar Chico officially under their wings, they can now raise/lobby for funds to invest in addressing its needs. The Sarteneja-based organization also looks forward to partnering with entities like the Belize Coast Guard, Belize Defence Force, the Belize Police Department, Hol Chan Marine Reserve, and all other parties that can collaborate in the management of the National Park.
The SACD looks forward to a solid partnership with the island community to successfully manage Bacalar Chico. According to Verde, they will seek to develop an advisory committee primarily composed of San Pedro residents interested in the protected area to help shape the management of Bacalar Chico. Following the consultations to obtain the community’s input, the next step will possibly be hiring rangers and a site manager.
Beaches and marine areas not under SACD’s watch
SACD indicated that the beaches and marine portion of Bacalar Chico are not included in their management mandate as it continues to be managed by the Fisheries Department and the Ministry of Blue Economy. The Hol Chan Marine Reserve also monitors this area of Bacalar Chico as part of its Sea Turtle Nesting Program. Hol Chan’s staff reported on Monday, April 17th, the discovery of the first nest of the season, which starts late in April and runs through November each year. Hol Chan personnel shared that the season will continue under its watch and asked islanders visiting the beaches around the Tranquility Bay area and farther north to be considerate, careful, and, if possible, avoid driving on the beaches as these are considered important sea turtle nesting sites. For more information or to report a potential nest or a turtle in distress, call 614-6439.


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