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Jan 21, 2020

Dredging in Hol Chan near Secret Beach, Ambergris Caye

Illegal dredging activities are threatening the coral reefs of the Hol Chan Marine Reserve which lies between San Pedro and Caye Caulker.  News Five has received a number of documents that the illegal activities have continued unimpeded and that in a number of instances, the go ahead has not been approved by the relevant authority, which is the Mining Unit.  In other instances, the local authorities have issued permits. Even though it is illegal to conduct any type of dredging within marine protected areas News Five’s Isani Cayetano has the following report.


Isani Cayetano, Reporting

Dredging within the Hol Chan Marine Reserve continues to be a concern for fisheries enforcement, as several property owners on north Ambergris Caye, in the vicinity of Secret Beach, have been unearthing sand from the seabed for use as landfill.  News Five is in receipt of several documents in which patrol officers attached to the Hol Chan Marine Reserve have encountered persons digging underwater.  On a recent occasion the team happened upon a platform upon which machinery was mounted for dredging.  When the officers drew nearer, they observed an individual in the water using the dredging machine.  He was ordered to cease the activity and was subsequently asked to contact the person in charge.  When the owner showed up, he told the officers that permission had been granted on a temporary basis by the San Pedro Town Council.  We note, however, that permits to conduct mining do not fall within the remit of that municipal body.   In fact, it is the Mining Unit of the Ministry of Natural Resources that is responsible for the issuance of permits under the Mines and Minerals Act.  On another occasion in November of last year, developer Steve Parish was handed a cessation order when it was discovered that he too was dredging for a property belonging to Ralph and Jennifer Anderson.  A directive from Inspector of Mines, Michelle Alvarez, was also sent out.  A permission letter from Mayor Daniel Guerrero indicates that authorization was given for Parish to create two swimming areas measuring two hundred feet each in front of parcels 8980 and 8981.  Parish was also allowed to dig fifty feet around his pier for property access.  Lastly, at Sunset Palace, a resort location owned and operated by Ivan Hernandez, a pair of vessels were sighted in the bay where its occupants were engaged in artisanal dredging.  This involves the use of a skiff and shovel to gather and transport sand.  A cease and desist order was immediately given and despite Hernandez mentioning to the officers that he had all necessary permits, he failed to produce them other than a letter of receipt from the Department of Environment for plans he had for his development.  The Hol Chan Marine Reserve covers approximately eighteen kilometers of coral reefs, sea grass beds and mangrove forests in a protected area between Ambergris Caye and Caye Caulker and was established in 1987.

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