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Mar 26, 2019

The Importance of Turneff Atoll, TASA

News Five joined other members of the media on an overnight trip to Turneffe Atoll Marine Reserve, the largest marine reserve in this part of the world. The visit one of the most spectacular sites under protection was coordinated by the Turneffe Atoll Sustainability Association, an N.G.O. formed in 2013 with the aim to promote sustainability and conservation as it relates to the reserve. News Five’s Hipolito Novelo was on the trip and files the following report.


Hipolito Novelo, Reporting

Located some twenty miles off the coast of Belize, Turneffe Atoll is the ‘largest and most biologically diverse marine reserve in the Western Hemisphere. The reserve is thirty miles in length and ten miles in breadth. It encompasses lagoons and creeks which run through more than one hundred and fifty mangrove islands and several cayes.


Valdemar Andrade

Valdemar Andrade, Executive Director, T.A.S.A.

“Out here we have a myriad of wildlife, whether it includes the American saltwater crocodile, manatees, dolphins, turtles, a high conch population, a high lobster population, finfish of all species.” 


Valdemar Andrade is the Executive Director of Turneffe Atoll Sustainability Association, TASA, a non-governmental association formed in 2013. TASA’s primary purpose is to work with stakeholders to promote the sustainable use and conservation of the marine reserve. TASA is guided by the Turneffe Atoll Marine Reserve Management Plan which focuses on natural resource management, data collection, outreach, and education initiatives and infrastructure.


Valdemar Andrade

“Turneffe is a marine reserve so it is a fisheries management tool. So our main mandate is to work with the stakeholders to ensure their sustainability. So we can see how they can continue to make their living off Turneffe, whether it is the seven hundred and six fishers, the resorts that work out here and about six to eight tourism operations from Caye Caulker, San Pedro, Belize City that come out here on a regular basis.”


And in order to sustain the reserve’s marine biodiversity without negatively impacting the livelihoods of some seven hundred plus fishers, fisheries regulations are being implemented and enforced.


Valdemar Andrade

“So we work with them on harvest rules, how they participate out there. Eighty-five percent of the area you can fish and there are certain regulations. We have certain conservation zones in which you can only fish certain species. We have some complete no-take zone which includes a manatee preservation area. We look at what harvest rules they use, what kind of gear types that they use, how much of it they deploy and where they deploy them. We also work with them on best practices and how they actually do their fishing or tourism. We prepare guideless for the developers so that they understand that you can develop but kind of guidelines you use for the marine reserve.”


Consistent networking between TASA, the Belize Coast Guard and Fisheries Department is key for the N.G.O. to carry out its mandate, especially where enforcement is concerned. Marine rangers conduct daily patrol, at least twenty-five patrols per month.


Jayron Young

Jayron Young, Chief Conservation Officer, T.A.S.A.

“When we do patrol we look out for fisheries enforcement the users of the atoll, ensuring that they are following the rules and regulations as well as for developments going on on the atoll. “How we manage that is by using the three key strategic locations that we have bases on the atoll. So we have a base on Mauger Caye, one at Calabash and one at Caye Bokel. So each base has a jurisdiction that they are allowed to patrol.”


News Five joined the coast guard officials, fisheries officers and TASA rangers on patrol. We encountered several vessels with fishermen primarily from northern villages such as Copper Bank and Chunox. In one vessel, the older fishermen were hiding two minors, relatives of theirs. The discovery was made after a TASA officer realized that there was an extra bucket filled with clothes which belonged to none of the fishermen who had identified themselves. The two boys, one age fifteen and the other seventeen, revealed themselves. The captain is seen worrying because having a minor on board a vessel licensed for commercial fishing is an offense.


Hampton Gamboa

Hampton Gamboa, Compliance Officer, Belize Fisheries Department

“By law we are not allowed to license anyone under the age of eighteen. The two minors which we encountered yesterday, of course, we had to document the first and foremost as it relates to the age, their names and do the basic data gathering from them. It is illegal for anyone under the age of eighteen to be engaged in commercial fishing of course without a valid license because we don’t issue a license to them. In this case what we will be doing moving forward is that we have to, in order to prosecute the kids we have to take them to juvenile court. There is a lot of red tapes because, for one of the kids, both his mom and his dad are no longer in his life. The one who is seventeen, we have met him on a number of occasions before. One thing I can tell you is that the captain will be charged for aiding and abetting charges for the kids.”


The captain is facing charges for employing an individual without a valid fisherfolk license. The minors were escorted back to Belize City. Hipolito Novelo, News Five.

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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