Hol Chan Marine Reserve

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Chapter 3. SITE DESCRIPTION

f - Impacts and threats affecting the area

Impacts and threats within the area


Impact and threats level Evolution In the short term Evolution In the long term Species affected Habitats affected Description / comments
Exploitation of natural ressources: Fishing significant unknown unknown Fishing is allowed in the seagrass beds (Zone C) but only traditional users are allowed in this area. Outside the marine reserve and around Ambergris Caye fishing is still practiced but cannot be considered an intensive form of commercial fishing. Intensive fishing techniques such as long lines are not used. Fishing is mainly done by free diving and lobster traps.
Exploitation of natural ressources: Agriculture limited not specified not specified Not commented
Exploitation of natural ressources: Tourism very important increase unknown Tourism has now become an economic alternative to fishing and many fishermen are now tour guides. However, the current fishing pressure does not allow fish stocks to recover to its natural state.
Exploitation of natural ressources: Industry limited not specified not specified Not commented
Exploitation of natural ressources: Forest products limited not specified not specified Not commented
Increased population very important increase increase Assess whether the current human presence or an expected increase in visitation (tourism, passage of vehicles and boats) and any human immigration into the area, or plans to build infrastructures, are considered a threat. San Pedro Town and Ambergris Caye is one of the fastest growing communities in the country. Expansion in the tourism sector will certainly result in the increase in visitors to the marine reserve. Visitation to the protected area has remained fairly stable over the years and minimal fluctuations have been recorded. If projected tourism development trends continue it will obviously lead to an increase in visitation the marine reserve. Human migration is a reality on the island. Belizeans from the mainland come to the island in search of work and a better way of life. Laborers from other Central American countries are also attracted to the island.
Invasive alien species very important increase increase In 2009 the Lionfish appeared in the Belize barrier reef. Hundreds have been captured and many more sightings have been reported. Tour guides report that the lion fish are now commonly sighted in the barrier reef.
Pollution significant increase increase Ambergris Caye is an important tourist destination in northern Belize. San Pedro Town has become a major tourism hub for the country and is rapidly developing into one of the largest towns in the country. Even though there is no development in the marine reserve, San Pedro Town is only seven kilometer away. Tourisms development and town expansion pose a threat to habitat alteration to areas adjacent to the protected area. Coupled to this are issues of solid and liquid waste treatment and disposal and sustainable use of coastal resources.
Other very important unknown unknown Before the establishment of the protected area in 1987, fishermen and tour operators were in conflict with the proposed size of the reserve. The proposed size had to be reduced in order to take into account the views of the fishermen. Currently the main issue of conflict is with tourism development. In 2007 the Government was about to issue several mangrove islands to private interest to develop tourism ventures. However, there was great opposition from tour guides, fishermen and the community that Government had to reverse their original plan. In 2008 those mangrove wetlands were incorporated into the Hol Chan Marine Reserve tripling the size of the protected area. Conflicts with tourism developments still continue since there is a proposed mega tourism development immediately adjacent to the Marine Reserve. The community is in disagreement with this current trend and do not support this type of development. This has led to the formation of a community based organization called the Ambergris Caye Citizens for Sustainable Development (ACCSD.

Impacts and threats around the area


Impact and threats Level Evolution In the short term Evolution In the long term Species affected Habitats affected Description / comments
Exploitation of natural ressources: Fishing very important unknown unknown Lobster and conch have a no-fishing season and a size limit. Finfish only the nassua grouper has a no-fishing season and a size limit. Permit, tarpon and bone fish can only be caught for the purpose of catch and release. It is illegal to capture or have in possession any marine turtles. Enforcement cannot be considered efficient since there in not sufficient resources to patrol the entire area.
Exploitation of natural ressources: Agriculture limited not specified not specified Not commented
Exploitation of natural ressources: Tourism significant increase increase There are several development plans in wetlands adjacent to the marine reserve. These developments are for marinas, hotels, casino and recreational areas. They require extensive dredging operations to fill the wetlands. Destruction of these critical habit can produce negative impacts to the marine Reserve. Additionally, tourism expansion will create additional strains to inadequate infrastructure in the island. There is no coastal management plan for Ambergris Caye and developers have learned to take advantage of this. Environmental Impact Assessments are flawed or sometime just ignored due to corruption at higher levels of management. Some of the fines are too low such are those for mangrove clearance. Some developer prefer to cut mangrove and pay the fine rather than going through the permitting process.
Exploitation of natural ressources: Industry limited not specified not specified Not commented
Exploitation of natural ressources: Forest products limited not specified not specified Not commented
Increased population limited not specified not specified Not commented
Invasive alien species limited not specified not specified Not commented
Pollution limited unknown unknown There is a sewer treatment plant in Ambergris Caye, however it only services the core area of town. New subdivisions and resorts along the coast of Ambergris caye are not hooked up to the sewer system and use septic tanks to treat sewage. There is no sanitary landfill on the island. Solid waste is collected daily deposited at a dump site and burnt. There are plans to transport solid waste to the mainland where there will be a sanitary landfill.
Other limited not specified not specified Not commented