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Jul 28, 2017

TIDE, MARFUND Wrap Up Million-Dollar Project in South

The Meso American Reef, like many other coral reef systems, is vulnerable to a number of threats, including coastal development, habitat loss, overfishing and unsustainable fishing. Similarly, climate change increases these threats and decreases the resilience of the ecosystems to recover from changes. With these threats growing, the Meso American Reef Fund developed the project, “Conservation of Marine Resources in Central America. It was co-financed by the German government so as to support the conservation of marine and coastal protected areas of the Meso American Reef Fund.  As a result, in 2012 TIDE was given just under a million dollars to help protect the Port Honduras Marine Reserve. Over the years, TIDE carried out a number of projects within the reserve and in the surrounding communities, from training to infrastructural works to research. The project wrapped up last year and on Thursday, the funders and implementers of the project took the media on a site visit. Andrea Polanco has the story.

 

Andrea Polanco, Reporting

The Port Honduras Marine Reserve Marine is co-managed by the Toledo Institute for Development and Environment. The work of TIDE is to ensure that the reserve is supported so that it can benefit the surrounding communities, and also that it continues to play an important conservation role. To do these works, TIDE, an N.G.O., applies for grants from donors. In 2012, they received almost a million dollars through the Meso American Reef Fund (MARFUND) by way of the German Cooperation Project KFW. From 2012 to 2016, TIDE made significant investments to ensure resource protection, research and monitoring, education and outreach programs, as well as community development. One of the big projects was done here on Abalone Caye.

 

Celia Mahung

Celia Mahung, Executive Director, TIDE

“We were having serious problems with erosion and we almost lost our ranger base. So, we used gabion baskets with large boulders and if you notice, we circled the entire island with that and that has helped with the erosion a whole lot. It is a huge investment. It seems like a very easy and simple project, but it was very time consuming. We did it manually because we didn’t have any barges or any machines. People were hired from the communities to bring the rocks from town and from there they were transported here and they were manually put into the gabion baskets to have what you actually see here today.”

 

In proximity of the Mesoamerican Reef Complex, the second longest contiguous reef in the world, PHMR plays a vital role in protecting the biodiversity and integrity of this complex and unique system by providing critical nursery habitat for reef fish. In the reserve, they are protecting a number of species that are threatened by extinction in other parts of the world, including the West Indian manatee, great hammerhead shark, and goliath grouper. The coastal mangroves in the area are said to be one of only three major goliath grouper nursery grounds that remain in the world; another reason why research and resource protection are both central to the management of this reserve.

 

Celia Mahung

“Indeed we do have several threats; illegal fishing, trans boundary fishing; we still have the use of gillnet within the reserve at night, so the fund helped us to have a better vessel to do our daily patrols, better equipment for the park rangers. It invested in equipment for the rangers; the docking facility that we are on here was also built with this project.  It also helped with our research. So, TIDE does a lot of research. We do fin fish, lobster, conch, sea cucumber and we also do other species and so we were able to maintain our research and use that information to inform the management of the Port Honduras Marine Reserve.”

 

For those reasons, the donors of the MARFUND believe that the work being done in Port Honduras Marine Reserve is critical for sustainability.

 

Maria Jose Gonzalez

Maria Jose Gonzalez, Executive Director, MARFUND

“The investments made have the possibility of sustainability in time, which is, after all, something that you are looking for when you fund a project. You want good results, impact on the resources, well managed resources, resources that can stay there for the long term.  And I think TIDE is perfectly working on that and that is what they are gearing for and I believe that is what they are achieving.”

 

And to show the importance of this microcosm, the MARFUND representatives are on a site visit to the Port Honduras Marine Reserve. The visit saw the attendance of The German Ambassador to Guatemala and Belize Harald Klein; as well as Belize’s Ambassador to Guatemala Alexis Rosado. Travelling with the contingent are several journalists from Guatemala.

 

Maria Jose Gonzalez

“Belize is very marine-oriented. You have the reef right there. In Guatemala, and possibly the rest of the countries in Latin America, even though they have two oceans. They have traditionally seen inland, not towards the sea and it is very important that Guatemalans begin to understand that they are part of this wonderful reef system and they also have a responsibility towards this reef system.”

 

Alexis Rosado

Alexis Rosado, Belize’s Ambassador to Guatemala

“When we talk about eco-systems, they don’t respect boundaries. They are generally of a trans boundary nature – we are talking about the Meso American Barrier Reef System that starts from Mexico and goes through Belize, Guatemala and Honduras. So, we all need to cooperate and we need to work together. And I think this is a good example of the results that can be achieved.”

 

Reporting for News Five, I’m Andrea Polanco.

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