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May 4, 2022

Organizers of South Silk Caye Reclamation Exercise in Hot Water with Authorities

Situated within the conservation zone of the Gladden Spit and Silk Cayes Marine Reserve, South Silk Caye is rapidly deteriorating due to erosion. Last night, we told you about one community’s efforts to reclaim the island. Now, the organizers of the reclamation exercise are being accused of running afoul of the law by not acquiring the necessary license and authorization to conduct such activities within a marine reserve. Today, both the Southern Environmental Association and the Ministry of Blue Economy and Civil Aviation acknowledged via press release the rapid deterioration of South Silk Caye, while highlighting the need for restoration work to take place in accordance with the law and based on scientific data.  News Five’s Paul Lopez takes a closer look.


Paul Lopez, Reporting

Approximately three years ago, we were on South Silk Caye where we captured these videos of a once flourishing island that had been reduced to just a strip of land.  Coconut trees were toppled. The island’s capacity was significantly reduced and its restroom had to be downsized. Today, South Silk Caye is almost completely under water. A recent image shows only three coconut trees standing, a little less than what was seen on the island in 2019, and a considerable decrease from what was there ten years ago. Back then, Executive Director of the Protected Areas Conservation Trust, Nyari Diaz Perez, identified climate change as the cause of the erosion.


File: June 5th 2019 Nyari Diaz Perez, Director of PACT

“That use to be a two stall bathroom facing that side of the island. That bathroom was built by PACT many years ago, as well as the other tourism infrastructure you here. If you look at it now it has been downsized to a one stall bathroom that now has to be turned and face the other side of the island because basically there is no beach on that side of the island no more.”


So, when PACT and the Southern Environmental Association signed an agreement with the GETCH Foundation to secure a million-dollar investment in Southern Belize, partly to assist with the reclamation of South Silk Caye, hopes were high. But, three years have elapsed and, as Justin Linarez of Go Sea Tours told us via zoom on Tuesday, not much has changed in terms of the reclamation efforts.


Justin Linarez

Justin Linarez, Go Sea Tours

“We have been lobbying to get this island fixed for the past three to four years. I am aware that there was a grant given to the Southern Environmental Association to do some studies. I am not sure if that grant money was for the actual reclamation of the island or if money was just given to study that area in case someone wants to fill it. However, we never heard from those people. No one heard what was being done.”


And so, on April thirty first and March first, residents from the nearby community took it upon themselves to pool their resources to construct a break wall around the perimeters of the island to prevent further erosion. This initiative was spearheaded by Placencia resident and tourism stakeholder Eworth Garbutt.


Eworth Garbutt, Organizer

Eworth Garbutt

“This wasn’t just a kneejerk approach, we’ve been doing studies, we’ve been doing our consultation, but not with the regular game, not the same way. I’ll give you a great example, you see the guy down there Jaime, he has spent a lot of time in school. He went all the way to standard 3, so it’s been lots of days of his life in school. The engineering skills that he has, combined with the other expert like Mr. Albert, and different guys who know what they are doing. We’ve been consulting, we’ve been talking and I’ll tell you further if you video and see what we have, we have sandbags, that’s just to form what we are doing.”


On both days, Garbutt found himself facing off with coast guard officers who informed him that he did not acquire the necessary environmental clearances to conduct such an activity. As a result, the officers requested that the operations be halted.


Coast Guard Officer

“I approach about the situation. We got information from Belize City that we should come here and stop whatever is going on because the proper procedures were not taken, which is getting permission from the Department of the Environment and from Fisheries. I came and I saw nothing illegal being done. I went back and I passed the information. I have to come back and tell that they say you have to cease everything you are doing until proper documentation is gotten from Fisheries and the Environment.”


As a result, it is likely that Garbutt will face charges. On Friday of last week,SEA issued a public notice informing stakeholders of the community’s intent to carry out the works, along with a caution that boats would be traversing the area for the entire day. On Wednesday, SEA issued a follow-up release stating that it was under the impression that the organizers had obtained all the necessary permits and approvals.


Reporting For News Five I am Paul Lopez


In their release, the Southern Environmental Association called on the Fisheries Administrator to assist in organizing a forum with the relevant parties to start necessary discussion on the way forward.

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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