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Feb 25, 2015

Hol Chan Marine Reserve Expansion Signed Off

The southern tip of San Pedro Ambergris Caye is the Hol Chan Marine Reserve. Hol Chan, which is Mayan translation for “Little Channel,” was officially established as a protected area in 1987.  The reserve covered only eighteen square kilometers of the rich aquatic ecosystem, but since then, it has expanded to cover over fifty-five square kilometers. In 2010, the management of the Hol Chan Marine Reserve had proposed the expansion of the protected area. Finally today, the Minister of Tourism, Manuel Heredia Junior, officially authorized its further expansion. According to the reserve manager, Miguel Alamilla, the Hol Chan has remained sustainable through proper management by both the private and public sectors.

 

Miguel Alamilla, Manager, Hol Chan Marine Reserve

“The expansion includes a complete, a representative sample of Belize’s Coastal Zone. We have sea grass beds, we have mangroves, wetlands and coral reef. We have important fly-fishing areas that currently tour guides are using for fly-fishing and this will provide further protection and enhance the sustainable use of those catch and release fishing areas. We have wetlands/mangroves which are very important for coastal fisheries, coastal communities, they protect coastlines; they are nursery habits for many species of fish and invertebrates. They filter nutrients, sediments. So they have a very important environmental function. The coral reef and the ecological and economic importance it plays for our communities.”

 

Manuel Heredia

Manuel Heredia, Minister of Tourism

“It couldn’t have been historic without the support of the community…the many people, organizations, stakeholders that are area and with the goodwill of this administration. This government believes if we have tourism as the number one priority of our administration, then we have to make sure that we can join forces in protecting the environment, to make sure that there is sustainable development that is happening over here and that is exactly what we are doing.”

 

Miguel Alamilla

Miguel Alamilla

“The process was and still is a collective consultative process. It is a back and forth process and I have been involved for many years in marine protected areas management and that is the approach we take to management and establishing new areas. There needs to be consultation with communities, with governments, with all stakeholders and that takes time.”

 

Duane Moody

“So what will it take to continue the management of this Hol Chan Marine Reserve?”

 

Miguel Alamilla

“If you look at the history of Hol Chan, we have not remained static.  Hol Chan has always been expanding, increasing. I remember when I came here it was myself and three park rangers. Now we are a staff of sixteen individuals working. We have three main management components—enforcement, monitoring/research and environmental education. So in all we will use our current resources to expand on those areas. It is an expansion of those areas and we will be adding more resources as we go along and we expand in management in those new areas.”

 

Hol Chan Marine Reserve now spans from the island of San Pedro to the coastline near Bomba in Belize District and will enhance no take zones, sea grass beds, mangrove islands, coral reef, conservation zones and Mexico Rocks general use and no take zones. 

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