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Feb 26, 2015

The Coalition Speaks on Reserve Expansion Signing

Tanya Williams

On Wednesday night we told you about the signing of the expansion at Hol Chan Marine Reserve, and while it is a win for conservationists, who have been pushing for the expansion of the protected area, there are still concerns that the area is open and vulnerable to off-shore oil exploration. We spoke with Executive Director of the Coalition to Save Our Natural Heritage, Tanya Williams, and she shared those concerns with us.

 

Tanya Williams, Executive Director, Coalition to Save Our National Heritage

“Definitely the expansion of the Hol Chan Marine Reserve to include areas which are critical to the functioning of the Marine Reserve, we applaud that. That’s a critical step towards conservation in larger context of the Belize Barrier Reef System. However, we are concerned because if you look at the proposed zonation that government is doing, Hol Chan and these annexed areas are actually considered to be open to oil exploration. Both the existing Hol Chan Marine Reserve is in zone two, which allows for oil exploration just that there are stricter guidelines. When you look at the different zones which have been added, some of them are actually in the clear which are in zone four which have the least restrictions. So, in one sense they are saying yes to conservation but it’s going to be taken away if you are going to allow oil to be explored within those areas.”

 

Andrea Polanco

“Now, we know that this discussion has been going on for a long time and there have been calls made for changes; what’s the position of the Coalition and where are those discussions right now?”

 

Tanya Williams

“The position is definitely to advocate for no oil exploration in our offshore and looking at that, there should be no exploration. Even if you should apply a buffer, which government is talking about, it should still be closed to oil exploration.”

 

Andrea Polanco

“Now, we look at areas like Hol Chan, which is one of the most popular sites when it comes to tourism. Do you think that the decisions being made right now, aren’t putting into focus the threat to these areas and what it means for not just tourists who are visiting the sites, but also locals?”

 

Tanya Williams

“Definitely because certain decisions are being made that do not reflect sustainable issues when it comes to the economy, the environment and people’s normal use of these particular sources. Hol Chan isn’t only important for Fisheries; it has also been cited as one of the most successful marine reserves when it comes to the recruitment of fishery. In the first place it was named to be a marine reserve is because it was a very low fishery resource. Over the years, we have seen an increase in fisheries there, so it is one of the success stories for marine reserves within Belize.”

 

The agreement to expand Hol Chan was signed by Minister of Tourism on Wednesday.

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Viewers please note: This Internet newscast is a verbatim transcript of our evening television newscast. Where speakers use Kriol, we attempt to faithfully reproduce the quotes using a standard spelling system.

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