Tuesday, June 18, 2024

Environment

Belize Aggressor removed from Lighthouse Reef; damage assessment commences

The diving vessel Belize Aggressor IV, which was stuck at Lighthouse Reef, has finally been removed. The Belize Port Authority (BPA) said on Monday, November 27th, that the vessel was successfully refloated after being grounded near the Aquarium Dive Site for around ten days. An in-depth assessment of the damage to the coral reef is now underway. Following that, a fine will be assessed for the damage caused by the diving vessel.

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.

Belize Aggressor still stuck at Lighthouse Reef

The Belize Aggressor IV, a 115-foot-long yacht, remains stuck near Lighthouse Reef Atoll, after it ran aground in the Aquarium dive site a week ago. The Belize Port Authority (BPA) is investigating the incident, while the boat’s management is preparing a salvage plan to remove it from this sensitive area covered with coral reef. After that, the Department of the Environment (DOE) will conduct a damage assessment.

Management plan for Bacalar Chico still in the works; illegal hunting continues

Concerned residents and conservationists in San Pedro, Ambergris Caye, continue to report illegal activities, such as hunting, at the terrestrial portion of the Bacalar Chico National Park in the island’s northern part. According to reports, the wildlife at this park (deer, peccaries, etc.) is under constant threat, particularly on weekends. There are reportedly no park rangers to safeguard the surrounding natural habitats, and thus, there is reported abuse of the protected area. With the Sarteneja Alliance for Conservation and Development (SACD) taking control of the co-management of Bacalar Chico in March of this year, changes were expected to occur. The SACD has indicated that changes are coming as they continue developing a management plan for the site and begin having a partial presence by December of this year.

Report shows impact of Sargassum in Belize and parts of Mexico

A report on the effects of sargassum and management proposals in Quintana Roo, Mexico, and Belize was presented to stakeholders in San Pedro Town on Saturday, October 28th, at the Sunbreeze Hotel. Dr. Minerva Arce-Ibarra, a scientist with the non-profit Ecosur, presided over the informational session.

Amendment approved to include offshore oil exploration referendum

After the Government of Belize and Oceana Belize agreed on the referendum on the moratorium on offshore oil exploration, a Bill was introduced in the House of Representatives to amend the Referendum Act and make a referendum mandatory. The Bill was debated in the Senate and approved on October 26th, officiating the amendment for a mandatory referendum before any oil exploration in Belizean waters.

Population Growth of the ‘Hicatee’ Turtle at Cox Lagoon in the Maya Forest Corridor

Hicatees live in freshwaters such as rivers, creeks, and lagoons, and build their nests on the banks. They are large aquatic animals that eat plants, overhanging vegetation, fruits, and flowers. They uniquely show sexual dimorphism where adult males express visibly express a yellow to orange head coloration.

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

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.

Coral bleaching severely affecting reefs in 2023

The heat wave experienced this year is affecting people and resources in Belize, and the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef is severely bleaching due to rising sea temperatures. A preliminary report issued by Ecomar, a non-profit organization, indicates that Belize's water temperature has increased exponentially compared to any other year since 1985. This temperature rise has stressed corals, which are said to exhibit signs of mortality due to the severe bleaching.

Construction of pier in Bacalar Chico Marine Reserve raises concerns among stakeholders on Ambergris Caye

The construction of a pier within the Bacalar Chico Marine Reserve in northern Ambergris Caye has raised concerns among concerned residents who maintain that no such structures should be allowed in this sensitive marine area. The responsibility to manage these marine protected areas mainly falls on the Belize Fisheries Department (BFD), which plays a role in approving structures in sensitive marine areas. They know the situation and visited the site at Robles Point over a week ago with the local authorities to issue a Stop Order. Despite the order to halt any further construction, it has reportedly continued. As a result, the Fisheries Department is now looking at other alternatives to address the problem.

Lionfish Tournament removes hundreds of Lionfish from Belizean waters

The Lionfish, an invasive species in Belizean waters, felt the brunt of the ongoing campaign to reduce its presence in Belize. On October 7th, Reef Adventures in San Pedro Town held its annual Lionfish Tournament for the third time, attracting 12 teams. The event awarded the three top teams who caught the most lionfish, with Team Carma again taking the top prize. Team Carma was also the winner of the 2022 Lionfish tournament and defended their title, sealing the big win with a total of 371 lionfish. Team Ramons, with 247 lionfish, was in second place, and Team Chingon brought back 152 of the predatory fish.