Saturday, June 15, 2024

Islanders report illegal hunting and disturbance of turtle nests in northern Ambergris Caye

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In April of this year, the Ministries of the Blue Economy and Sustainable Development Climate Change and Disaster Risk Management denounced reports of illegal hunting in northern Ambergris Caye within the Bacalar Chico National Park and Marine Reserve. Following their reaction, little has been done as the criminal activities continue, including the apparent uprooting of mature coconut trees and the potential threat to turtle nesting areas.

According to concerned islanders, these coconut trees are reportedly being sold to property developers. Some of these trees are more than ten feet tall and are in demand by people landscape their beachfront properties with mature trees.

Flora and fauna in the Bacalar Chico are being exploited, and the respective authorities are not responding to the illegal activity. One person, who asked to remain anonymous, said that this is not the first time they have reported hunting and other illegalities, and nothing gets done.

According to the National Protected Areas System Act, the Wildlife Protection Act, the Forest Act, and the Fisheries Act, the government has reminded the public that hunting, fishing, and clearing land is prohibited within the Bacalar Chico National Park and Marine Reserve.

Persons conducting illegal activities (hunting) in this northern area of the island could be fined a maximum of $20,000 and/or sentenced to two years imprisonment. For other offenses relating to the marine reserve, penalties are up to a $5,000 fine and/or imprisonment.

Despite these warnings, illegal activities continue unabated, putting at risk the wildlife of northern Ambergris Caye, including unique species and marine life on the Bacalar Chico Reserve. Some island residents believe that this is due to poor enforcement. This could be due to the limited resources rangers working at that reserve are provided.

The annual sea turtle nesting season runs typically from May through November. Most of the nesting usually takes place in Robles or Rocky Point Beach and in front of Bacalar Chico, several miles north of San Pedro Town. The main nesters are Loggerhead and Green turtles, with the Hawksbill making rare visits. There are signs on the beach asking visitors to this remote area of the island not to drive on the beach.

Illegal fishing at the Bacalar Chico Marine Reserve is allegedly a constant occurrence, particularly by fishermen from the Mexican side. Over the past years, the Hol Chan Marine Reserve and the Fisheries Department have done their best to monitor the waters within the marine protected areas surrounding Ambergris Caye. The public is asked to contact them at 226-2247 with any information on any fisheries violations, including tampering or handling of turtle eggs.

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