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Jan 27, 2000

Port Honduras area now a national reserve

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With increasing reports of manatees being slaughtered in the Toledo District and requests from area conservation groups and fishermen, the Minister of Agriculture Dan Silva this week signed a statutory instrument designating the Port Honduras area a national reserve. The Port Honduras Marine Reserve covers an area running from Monkey River Village in the North to just North of Punta Gorda town in the South and proceeding eastward from the mainland Belize to encompass the Snake cayes and surrounding areas. The reserve consists of three major zones: a Wilderness Zone encompassing two percent of the overall area in which no developmental activity will be allowed; a Conservation Zone encompassing eight percent of the area where only sport-fishing and diving activities will be allowed; and the General Use Zone encompassing ninety percent of the area in which sustainable activities will be allowed such as commercial, sport and recreational fishing. A ceremony hosted by the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries and the Belize Tourism Board will be held in Punta Gorda on Monday. The Toledo Institute for Development and the Environment, TIDE says it has been asking for the area to fall under this type of protection for several years. They allege that Belizean manatees are being slaughtered by Guatemalan poachers who sell the meat in Guatemalan markets. Although TIDE and the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries both say the key to fighting the problem is increased patrols, declaring the area a reserve will allow Belize to access assistance from international conservation organizations. Right now TIDE has enlisted the help of volunteer fisherman, who patrol the area in exchange for gasoline from TIDE’s gas bank.

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