Minister Manuel Heredia clarifies questions surrounding Hol Chan Marine Reserve Expansion
Saturday, May 30th, 2015
Following years of lobbying by marine environmentalists on Ambergris Caye, the expansion of Hol Chan Marine Reserve was approved by Cabinet and inaugurated in a grand celebration on February 25, 2015. But shortly after the celebrations, news broke out that the Statutory Instrument (SI) was still being reviewed by the Attorney General. Thirty days later, the SI remained unsigned, leading to the belief that the expansion was not yet official. Since that controversy, Minister of Tourism, Culture and Civil Aviation and Area Representative Honorable Manuel Heredia Jr. went on the record to clarify the allegation and confirm that the expansion is official.
“When we inaugurated the expansion of the Hol Chan Marine Reserve it was already official. Yes the document was still being reviewed by the Attorney General but only to ensure that it does not contravene any other law. Honorable Lisel Alamilla (Minister of Forestry, Fisheries and Sustainable Development) signed the SI shortly after the ceremony with my support,” said Heredia. According to Heredia the confusion was blown out of proportion without reason. “Once the relevant Minister placed their signature on the SI and it was gazetted, then it became official. The Attorney General advises on the legalities and wording of the SI to ensure that everything is in proper order. It doesn’t need his signature to make it a done deal. This is what caused the confusion,” said Heredia.
The San Pedro Sun confirmed under the Belize Constitution (seventh amendment) Bill Section 42, that the Attorney General acts as an advisor and that SIs are made legal with the Ministers’ signature.
The expansion saw 359 square kilometers of reef, sea, shoals, lagoon and wetlands becoming part of the Hol Chan Marine Reserve. Certain changes were made to the original document to accommodate private land owners. The expansion includes eight Zones ‘A, B, C, D, E, F, G, and H’, excluding all private property. Zone A is the Hol Chan Channel No-take Zone comprising sea and reef on the south of Ambergris Caye containing about 2.7 square kilometers. Zone B is the Sea Grass Beds comprising of land and sea containing approximately 22 square kilometers situated at the south end of Ambergris Caye bounded on the North South East and West by sea. Zone C is the Mangrove Islands comprising of land and sea containing 25.4 square kilometers situated at the south end of Ambergris Caye bounded on the North East and West by sea and on the south by land locally known as Boca Chica and Cangrejo shoals. Zone D is the Coral Reef comprising of the sea and reef on the south of Ambergris Caye containing approximately 5.3 square kilometers. Zone E is the Bajos General Area comprising of sea and land except for private property containing approximately 330.6 square kilometers. Zone F is the Bajos General Use Zone comprising of sea and rand except for private property. Zone E is subdivided into I – Bajos General Use Zone, II – Cayo Pajaro Conservation Zone, III- Bajos Conservation Zone, IV – Cayo Rosario Conservation Zone, V – Blackadore Conservation Zone and VI – Los Salones Conservation. Zoen F is the Cayo Frances Conservation Area comprising of all land and sea except for private property containing approximately 13.5 square kilometers. Zone G is the Mexico Rocks General Use Area excluding the Mexico Rocks No Take Zone (zone H) comprising of sea and reef on the east of Ambergris Caye congaing approximately 15 square kilometers. Zone H is the Mexico Rocks No Take Zone comprising of sea and cayes, excluding all private property, on the east of Ambergris Caye containing approximately 2.56 square kilometers.
The Reserve is now in the phase of making necessary adjustments to manage the area. Funds are being allocated to support the additional staff and resources needed to regulate the entire scope of the Hol Chan Marine Reserve. Initially, the Reserve was depending on a grant from Protected Area Conservation Trust (PACT). “PACT had already approved the grant, but due to the time it took to make the SI official that grant was lost. But we are revisiting the grant and will also be applying for further funding from international agents. For now, the general revenue that Hol Chan already acquires will be used to sustain the entire reserve. Hol Chan is in charge of the complete management,” said Heredia.
Heredia also explained that Miguel Alamilla has taken the task of General Manager for the Hol Chan Marine Reserve. “Each zone that is protected will have a park manager to oversee the day to day activities that happen. Miguel Alamilla will be the general manger that will oversee the running of reserve,” said Heredia.
Only recreational activities are allowed within the reserve, and no extraction of any kind of marine resources (alive or dead) is allowed.
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