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Feb 4, 2019

The Impact of Development and Fishing in Turneffe

So while the Nassau Grouper is facing extinction, at the Turneffe Island, overfishing is also a huge concern. The Turneffe Atoll was declared a marine reserve seven years ago and in 2018, environmental and an economic study was carried out.  Today, we were treated to a look at the impact of development and fishing in the Turneffe. The Turneffe Atoll Trust has been at the forefront of promoting sustainable in the reserve where both the tourism and commercial fishing industries can coexist with conservation. News Five’s Isani Cayetano reports.


Isani Cayetano, Reporting

The largest coral atoll in Belize is fringed by the Turneffe Islands. It is one of three landmasses made up of hard marine deposits surrounding a lagoon that together form the Belize Barrier Reef.  The impressive beauty of this cluster of islands from above, on terra firma and underwater makes it a prime attraction for visitors the world over.  Its financial value for stakeholders in various sectors is incalculable.


Valentino Shal

Valentino Shal, Consultant, Turneffe Atoll Trust

“As you can see, this is a very beautiful area, a very pristine area.  It supports a lot of economic activities, fisheries, tourism, sport fishing and so it has a lot of value for Belizeans, for the Belizean economy, for the government through taxation and it’s important that we maintain the integrity of the area as much as possible.”


On November 22nd, 2012, the Turneffe Atoll was officially declared a marine reserve, a protected area which now has legal safeguards against fishing and development on commercial scales.


Alex Anderson

Alex Anderson, Executive Director, Turneffe Atoll Trust

“Turneffe Atoll Trust is an advocacy organization and our goal is to ensure that we advocate for best practices to be put in place when it comes to development of the Turneffe Atoll, one.  Two, we want to see a sustainable industry here at Turneffe, in terms of both the tourism and commercial fishing industries that a lot of stakeholders depend on.”


For the past thirty-eight years, Dale Fairweather has been fishing in these waters.  Over time he has seen many changes that have affected this natural resource, for better or for worse.


Dale Fairweather, Fisherman

“My experience in working this area for so many years is that we use to catch a lot of lobster and conch and now it’s a few.  You don’t catch as much as you would like to.”


Dale Fairweather

Isani Cayetano

“What would you say would be perhaps the primary reason why there has been a reduction in the kind of catch that you’ve made?”


Dale Fairweather

“Well the primary reason is the fact that we have a, we don’t have a lot of enforcement and I think that’s over-fishing.  We have too much fishermen.  Right now it’s over nine hundred fishermen that have license to fish in Turneffe.”


It’s hard to imagine the stress that is caused by over-fishing on the marine ecosystem.  To exacerbate the situation, developers of private properties on these islands constantly attempt to flout environmental laws by building outside of what is legally permitted.  Our visit to one such location at Turneffe today succeeds the launch of an environmental and an economic study in 2018.


Alex Anderson

“Risking the Atoll is an environmental and an economic analysis of several destructive development projects at Turneffe.  And so, at that session we had promised to give the media and viewers a firsthand experience of going and seeing what the magnitude of these developments look like firsthand.  So today we came out, we went by the Hakimi’s Dive Haven this morning and really put into perspective the size of the development in terms of looking at what it took to have that development take place.  We also highlighted that that development was first pushed forward as a residential development.  As we can clearly see, it’s been more than twelve years, the place is still under construction and it still has not opened.  I think we’re looking at these projects from a view of looking back at the past to see how the damage has occurred.”


That perspective is with a view to implement and enforce environmental laws in Belize.  Today, a team of tertiary level students from the University of Belize, all majoring in Natural Resources Management, saw for themselves what has been taking place within the reserve.


Giselle Mahung

Giselle Mahung, Student, University of Belize

“Currently we’re doing a course called Coastal Zone Management and being able to be on the ground and see the extent of developments within our country, putting the theory that we’ve learned in class into a more practical context, I think that this trip has provided an excellent opportunity to do that.  And what we’ve noticed is that Belize has an excellent framework, however, that framework, today we’ve been able to see that that framework is not being implemented in certain cases.”


Reporting for News Five, I am Isani Cayetano.

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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