MSc student: Biodiversity Conservation & Sustainable Development: UB/UWI
3 June 2013
Hon. Dean O. Barrow
Government of Belize
Dear Hon. Barrow,
I am writing to you to give my opposition, as a registered voter, to the proposed Crawl Caye/NCL development. I have been working since 2006 on reef restoration, specifically at Laughing Bird Caye National Park, but all my data to date supports the concept that corals at the inner reefs near Placencia have a higher thermal tolerance than other corals, due to the unique reef formation of Gladden Spit. The reefs around Crawl Caye fall into this special, resilient category.
This is important due to dire predictions of rising sea temperatures adversely affecting coral reefs, which support fisheries, tourism and coastal protection. Dredging and filling 20 acres at Crawl Caye would adversely affect the Acroporid corals (Elkhorn and Staghorn =’pan tail & pipe shank’ inna kriol) whose populations are actually recovering after Hurricanes Mitch (1998) and Iris (2001) near Placencia, inclusive of Crawl Caye. These species (Acropora palmata and A. cervicornis) were listed in 2006 as Critically Endangered on the IUCN Red List in 2006, the same year I received my first research grant from PACT to aid these corals’ recovery.
While I do label myself a “conservationist,” in this day it also means taking into account socio-economics, and to this end I have written two grants (BZ$82K and 100K) for further training for marine guides through the Placencia Tour Guide Association (PTGA) and also a BZ $90K grant for the Placencia Producers Cooperative Society, Ltd. (PPCLS) for their successful seaweed farming initiative designed to take away pressure from traditionally over-fished commercial species. These three grants were funded by COMPACT under the auspice of protecting the Belize Barrier Reef Reserve System-World Heritage Site (BBRRS-WHS). If Belize is stripped of this designation we will lose out on funding for many community-based proposals/projects/training opportunities.
If you or your staff use Facebook, I urge you to visit the two relevant pages for short videos and many photos: Fragments of Hope and Placencia Seaweed Farmers.
Make no mistake: I am all for better opportunities/education and livelihoods for Belizeans but not at a cost to the unique and still thriving reef environment we all currently benefit from. I am more than willing to work with your government and both village councils on the Placencia Peninsula to secure additional funding for better education and livelihood opportunities-but ones which enhance and not destroy the environment like the current Crawl Caye NCL proposal will do.
On a personal note, I dove with your brother in years past while working for Seahorse dive shop. And on a professional note, I just finished my last MSc course through UB/UWI: EIA! Everywhere else in the Caribbean public consultations are mandated BEFORE an EIA is even conducted; sadly that is not the case here. I urge your staff to review the Environmental Protection Act before making any decisions.