Port Honduras Marine ReserveNote: The data were entered in the language of the country of origin (English, French or Spanish) and there is no translation available yet.
Chapter 2. EXECUTIVE SUMMARY
Present briefly the proposed area and its principal characteristics, and specify the objectives that motivated its creation :
The Port Honduras Marine Reserve (PHMR) is unique along the coast of Central America in lagoon system size and the number of in-shore mangrove islands. This ecological system is in relatively pristine condition and includes three related components: coastal and tidal wetlands, marine lagoons, and mangrove islands with associated shallow banks and fringing coral reefs. Almost all of the coastal and island vegetation, including mangroves, is intact.
The purpose of PHMR is the maintenance of coastal ecosystem functions and natural resource values, including water quality and nursery habitats of the area, in order to protect biodiversity and traditional fishers’ livelihoods.
The ecological uniqueness of PHMR was first recognized in 1990 from a Critical Habitat Study. This study identified the area from the Bladen Nature Reserve to Port Honduras as a potential protected corridor from the Maya Mountains to the sea, preserving a wide range of biodiversity. Subsequently, PHMR was the subject of two rapid ecological assessments (REAs) funded under the PACA (Environmental Project for Central America) Project.
The REAs revealed that PHMR serves extremely important ecological functions of regional significance. Compared with the water quality beyond the Snake Cayes, the inshore area was found to be quite turbid. This indicates that much of the sediment from runoff is confined within the coastal basin, allowing for appropriate water quality for coral growth offshore. The area was found to be high in juvenile fish, including most of the commercial species.
PHMR has three adjacent and nearby human settlements: Monkey River, Punta Negra and Punta Gorda. The predominant use is fishing. Many of the Belizean fishers who work in the Port Honduras area complained of illegal fishing by foreign nationals, and attribute the apparent reduction in certain fish stocks to transboundary fishing. For this reason (and because of the availability of a relatively good dataset on commercial species going back 5-10 years), PHMR was chosen to be one of two pilot sites in Belize for Managed Access fisheries management. Managed Access has reduced the number of commercial fishers using PHMR from over 300 to approximately 120.
While tourism impacts are currently low, the future is likely to bring an increased number of visitors. Recently, the Punta Ycacos Lagoon has been used as a tourist attraction primarily for fly-fishing. New Haven, a natural harbor, is witnessing increased use by sailboats.
Explain why the proposed area should be proposed for inclusion in the SPAW list
Marine Reserves provide breeding and nursery areas for juveniles of many species. The “no-take” zones of PHMR serve as seeding ground for areas that have been depleted. PHMR is also an important nursery area for a variety of species, including the critically endangered goliath grouper. The coastal and estuarine mangroves within and adjacent to PHMR constitute what is thought to be one the world's last three major nurseries for the critically endangered goliath grouper (Epinephelus itajara). Juvenile E. itajara tagged in PHMR have been recaptured as far away as Mexico and Honduras.
In spite of recent signs of fisheries decline, intact habitats in PHMR can continue to support regionally important fisheries resources. Management is critical and Managed Access is an attempt to reduce overfishing, enable commercial species to recover, and foster stewardship by traditional users (fishers) of the MPA. PHMR represents the core of an intact corridor of terrestrial and marine habitats. Because of its role in linking uplands with the sea via rivers, estuaries and coastal lagoons, the area is critical for the reproduction of a great diversity and abundance of commercially important resources. The large mangrove area on the coast, significant seagrass beds, large areas of substrate and reef environments all contribute to the value of PHMR as critical habitat for fisheries productivity and biodiversity conservation.