Friday, June 21, 2024

Illegal Pier at Bacalar Chico Marine Reserve continues to cause concerns on Ambergris Caye


Even though structures are not permitted in marine reserves in Belize unless proper permits are issued by the Belize Fisheries Department (BFD), a pier was built at Robles Point within the Bacalar Chico Marine Reserve in northern Ambergris Caye. The construction of the dock in this UNESCO World Heritage Site has made many islanders unhappy, who continue to call on the respective authorities to enforce the law. The San Pedro Town Council (SPTC) and the BFD are all aware of the situation, but little has been done to address the issue adequately.
The BFD has stated that their personnel and members of the local building unit visited the site to issue a Stop Order. According to reports, the property owners were informed of the reasons for the Stop Order. However, the pier was still constructed. A follow-up with the BFD indicated that they would investigate the issue more seriously; however, there have been no updates. The Fisheries Administrator has been contacted on different occasions but is unavailable for an update. Mayor Gualberto ‘Wally’ Nuñez said they will investigate the issue and see how best it can be addressed.
Some groups on the island, like the Ambergris Caye Citizens for Sustainable Development, have written to the BFD expressing their concerns. Other concerned organizations, including the Bonefish Tarpon and Trust (BTT) Belize, have also denounced the development, highlighting the importance of the marine reserve and its outstanding marine biodiversity. They explained that Bacalar Chico is a favorite tourist destination for diving, snorkelling, sport fishing, and sightseeing. The area along Robles Beach is also sea turtle nesting grounds.
The BTT Belize noted that the dock was constructed in critical spots for fly-fishing and as a habitat for species like bonefish and tarpon. They said that these types of developments in protected areas threaten livelihoods. They added that this area within Bacalar Chico Marine Reserve has been identified as a pre-spawning area for bonefish, and it is an essential flats fishing zone for guides who rely on such healthy habitats.
According to them, the Coastal Zone Management Authority and Institute have committed to taking enforcement action. However, they could not provide an update on this situation when contacted.
We will continue following this story.

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