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Jul 6, 2004

Management agreement signed for Goff’s Caye

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In the not too distant past, if you made your way to Goff’s Caye, chances are yours would be the only boat there. Even a crowded weekend would usually find no more than a half dozen skiffs moored in the clear blue waters off the beach. That, of course, was before the arrival of cruise ships. Now, to cope with the growing crowds, an attempt is being made to at least bring some measure of regulation to the Caye. Patrick Jones reports.

Patrick Jones, Reporting

The one point two acre island located twelve nautical miles east of Belize City, is a popular recreational area that each week attracts hundreds of visitors to its white sandy beaches and colourful reefs. But increased traffic in recent months from both residents and tourists, is putting the resources at Goff?s Caye under severe stress. To preserve the natural beauty and minimize irreparable damage to the nearby reef and other marine ecosystems, Minister of Natural Resources Johnny Briceño today handed over management of Goff?s Caye to the Coastal Zone Management Authority and Institute.

John Briceño, Minister of Natural Resources

?Well I think Goff?s Caye is unique case. Because as we all realize, five years ago, you had very few visitors to Goff?s Caye, but now we are concerned because of the amount of visitors that come. I understand that during the high season we have an average of two hundred people per day, sometimes as much as four hundred. And unless we can have some management in place, Goff?s Caye will be destroyed in the next five/ten years from now.?

Briceño told News 5 that up until now, there has been no comprehensive plan of action for the hundreds of cayes and islets that dot the country?s eastern seaboard. The work of C.Z.M.A.I. under this agreement will provide invaluable insight into the formulation of a national policy.

John Briceño

?There have been studies done and I think Coastal Zone probably has done some of them, but again it?s a matter that we have to look at issue to issue from Caye to Caye depending on the ecosystem where they are located. So we hope that once we come up with this national plan it is something that we can use to be able to assist us in all these issues of conservation that we need to address in Belize.?

Hugh O?Brien, Chairman, C.Z.M.A.I

?This agreement signed today for the management of Goff?s Caye is significant in that it completes one of the most important measures that government has committed to implement for the sustainable financing of the authority and the institute.?

While the management agreement will be an important funding source for its operation, Chairman of the C.Z.M.A.I., Hugh O?Brien, says the benefits go further than dollars and make sound environmental sense.

Hugh O?Brien

?The institute is being charged with this responsibility, primarily because the institute is going to be required to ensure that the various infrastructures are in place even before they collect the fees. And after the collection of fees begin, those funds are to be used to monitor the reefs in the surrounding area, to look at carrying capacity in the area. And therefore those information and those studies are going to help to determine the levels of visitation that could be allowed.?

Prior to the implementation of the agreement, Goff?s Caye was open to use by anyone who could reach its shores, with little or no regard for sustainability. Research by the institute carried out since 1999 shows that human activities in the area are having a negative impact on marine habitats, including the reef system. Briceño says putting Goff?s Caye under careful management ensures that the whole country benefits.

Johnny Briceño

?From our end, the Ministry of Natural Resources, it?s important for us to be able to protect these areas. And for the Coastal Zone Management Authority and Institute, for them they need to find a way how they can self finance the authority. And this is an opportunity that is available to them. And apart from that, I want to add, they are also looking also to the very same issues that concerns us, the issue of sustainable management. So for us it?s a win-win situation; something that we cannot lose. And at the end of the day not only the authority and the Government of Belize will benefit, but the entire country of Belize.?

The immediate benefits from today?s agreement will go to the C.Z.M.A.I., which has been hurting financially since funding from external sources dried up in February. O?Brien says the success of the management plan is hinged on maintaining the current level of visitors to the island.

Hugh O?Brien

?The institute would require funds to operate of around, between point eight and one point two million, depending on various levels of projects carried out. Goff?s Caye is projected to generate just around a million dollars per year at the present level of visitations. Now the indications are that cruise tourism in expanding in Belize and if the fee is implemented at the ten dollars U.S. per visitor, then the generation level can go up to one point six million dollars.?

But the Institute is not content with just managing Goff?s Caye. O?Brien says the Institute has its sights set on other areas where delicate reefs exist.

Hugh O?Brien

?We would be seriously looking to extending this agreement to include waters around Rendezvous Caye and possibly around English Caye.?

Patrick Jones

?Ten U.S. dollars per visitors, as a Belizean, if I go there, would I be expected to pay ten U.S. dollars??

Hugh O?Brien

?I must correct it?s ten U.S. dollars per non-Belizeans. Belizeans are going to be free.?

The management agreement includes tour guide training, installation of mooring buoys, toilet facilities, a garbage disposal system, and the construction of docking facilities. Patrick Jones, for News 5.

C.Z.M.A.I. says that it will hire rangers who will be stationed at Goff’s Caye to oversee the safety of visitors as well as the protection of the natural resources.


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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