Tuesday, April 16, 2024

Consultation engages San Pedro residents in developing National Mangrove Restoration Action Plan

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A consultation seeking to know the pulse of San Pedro regarding mangrove restoration engaged a group of islanders on Wednesday, October 25th, at the Sagebrush Church. The session is part of the National Mangrove Restoration Action Plan. This project aims to develop a five-year national action plan to enhance the protection and preservation of these essential coastal trees. The meeting was very interactive, with participants sharing the challenges mangrove ecosystems face in San Pedro and the need for enforcement and penalties against those illegally clearing this vegetation. It was clear that a permit must be obtained from the Belize Forest Department before any mangrove trimming or alteration occurs. All those in attendance noted that almost no one involved in coastal tourism developments follows such requirements per the law.
The World Wildlife Fund office in Belize and the Belize Forest Department led the consultation with the Hol Chan Marine Reserve collaboration. The presentation explained that the five-year action plan is aligned with national and global commitments, goals, and targets. It will be developed through broad stakeholder consultation to identify areas of influence and intervention that are important to address. They agreed that if the status of mangroves in Belize is to be improved, five critical strategic thematic areas must be addressed to achieve the desired impact. These included strengthened legislative and policy frameworks for protecting mangrove values, reduced illegal clearance of mangroves, engaging and informing the general public, successful mangrove restoration and protection, and reduced contamination in the watershed.
Following an intense back and forth, the presenters and attendees discussed areas across San Pedro suitable for mangrove restoration projects. With the help of maps, certain areas of the island were identified as potential mangrove restoration spots. Some areas were deemed unfit due to the rapid deterioration of the coastline due to erosion and ongoing development. The consultation also discussed ways to grow mangroves and what resources would be needed to restore mangroves successfully.

Mangrove clearing in San Pedro

While representatives from WWF and the Belize Forest Department took note of the many recommendations, the participants continued pressuring on the need for further enforcement. Large areas of mangroves have recently been cleared in San Pedro, and no one has been punished for these illegal activities. One of the brief reasons shared is the difficulty of building a case against an individual or company developing an area.

Mangrove clearing in San Pedro

Organizers shared at the end that they were very impressed with the energy San Pedranos showed at the consultation. They said the feedback would help develop and implement the five-year plan.
In the meantime, properties are advised to apply for permits before doing anything with mangroves to avoid penalties by the Forest Department. The environmental authorities are also working on their enforcement operations and warned anyone breaking the regulations to adhere to the law to prevent unnecessary problems.
Application to alter or trim mangroves can be found here: https://shorturl.at/pswUY

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