Please allow us a little of your time with this petition. We at the (Stann Creek Fishermen Association (SCFA) have been in an uphill struggle with the Belize Fisheries Department for a couple years now and with this new GoB/World Bank initiative (see info in body), we are trying not get locked out and left behind permanently.
It follows: The SCFA, in support of its affected members’ constitutional rights is respectfully calling on the Minister of Fisheries and the Fisheries Department, et al, for an immediate address to the following. The recent realignment of the South Water Caye Marine Reserve (SWCMR) Conservation Zone 1 western perimeter buoys is arbitrary (i.e., absolutely no public consultation was carried out /or nothing was Gazetted to justify amending the S.I. This S.I. was signed into place by GoB Cabinet in 1996 and established specific coordinates for the marine protected area.
The current GPS positions of the buoys in question are as follows :
1. Tobacco Caye Range NE, N-16,52,525; W-088,04.812
2. Tobacco Caye Range middle E, N-16,52,256; W-088,04.865
3. Tobacco Caye Range SE, N-16,54,599; W- 088,05.406
This re-positioning now conveniently excludes the area that we, the SCFA, highlighted as being dredged in early 2014. It covers more than 100 acres of low-lying mangrove which constituted the majority of the replenishment habitat area of the so-called non-extraction zone of the SWCMR.
The traditional lobster fishers of the area use only artificial habitats (i.e., shades, tires, drums) which are conducive to sustainable harvesting and beneficial to the marine ecosystem. These can be upgraded to “cement casitas,” as they use in other areas. These “casitas” are proven to be effective in the replenishing of a marine area.
Accordingly, we the SCFA find this arbitrary de-reservation of this area to be blatantly prejudicial and especially so to the areas traditional fishers who for years have been “catching hell” from Fisheries Department enforcement personnel who are tasked by the Department to force the fishers to abandon this area, which is their traditional fishing grounds.
These fishers and their families have been accessing and earning a legitimate livelihood from this area since before the area was declared a marine protected area by GOB in 1996. To date, no practical accommodation has been tabled by the GOB/Belize Fisheries Department, and the SCFA’s efforts have been falling on deaf ears.
Nevertheless, we at the SCFA remain hopefully optimistic that this communication should pave the way for a consultative and fruitful resolution to this matter on behalf of the affected group.
It must be noted, however, that we are equally concerned about the new Belize Marine Conservation and Climate Adaptation Project (MCCAP) (2015-2020) being implemented by the World Bank and funded by an adaptation fund grant and GOB, which will also have as a target area the SWCMR. The SCFA’s concern is that the “direct users/traditional fishers” of the SWCMR will be adversely affected if “old business” pertaining to the user group is not comprehensively resolved.