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Jun 6, 2007

B.D.F. team wins PACT challenge

Story PictureToday was the final leg of the event known as the PACT Challenge. The three teams, having experienced the wonders of Belize’s magnificent atolls, returned to Belize City to meet the press.

Jacqueline Godwin, Reporting
Today the PACT Challenge 2007 came to an end, coincidentally on the same day that the Protected Areas Conservation Trust is celebrating its eleventh anniversary. For the fifteen challengers, the past four days tested patience and endurance but also had its rewards.

Johnny Searle, Captain Eco Mar, Sea Sports
“Yesterday we had an event through the mangroves that was a killer and they should have given us some forewarning. It was maybe two miles through the mangroves, trekking through there. We lost shoes, we had injuries, I think one of my team members got splinters in his knee, it made your chest burn.”

Darren Bovell, Captain Sea Goliath, U.B.
“It was a real tough one especially for like two of us, it was our first time going out to the reefs, trekking through mangroves, kayaking, counting conch under the sea, lobsters under the sea. We got to go out like five in the morning, count birds, so it was a really challenging one but really educational for us.”

Lt. Justo Veliz Jr., Captain, B.D.F. Team
“Everything we do we always been challenged, so it’s no surprise that this PACT Challenge was challenging, but we still made the best out of it.”

Valdemar Andrade, Executive Director, PACT
“I am certainly satisfied that all the challengers really now understand what it is that we really go through in trying to manage these protected areas.”

According to the challengers, it was not all about gaining the most points, but getting the information needed to protect Belize’s Marine Protected Areas.

Johnny Searle
“From what I can gather, we need more participation from the stakeholders but more than that we need more political will. We have beautiful laws in the books and we have lots of paper parks, but we have very little enforcement or the enforcement is not adequate.”

Darren Bovell
“Money, we need manpower, we need more education to the wider public, which means the tourists coming to Belize, the locals, the fishermen. So it’s a very wide process and something that we have to start doing now, because recently I just found out the urgency and the importance of the atolls and our fishing products and our marine reserves. It plays a large roll in this area.”

Lt. Justo Veliz Jr.
“There should be more public support, there should be not only the organisation themselves enforcing these protection areas for prevention of either looting or destroying of it; the whole population of Belize should take care of it.”

Valdemar Andrade
“Two years from now you can interview me and then we will be able to tell you whether we met the goal of raising the one point six million dollars for the marine ecosystem or more; we are hoping it’s a lot more than that.”

“All the logistics went as planned and so there were very few glitches if any and so I am very happy with that and I would like to thank the Coast Guard, the B.D.F., the Belize Audubon, all the relevant agencies, Fisheries Department, the Forest Department for supported us in ensuring that carried out those logistics without any hitches.”

During the closing ceremony, the teams were awarded for their efforts. The Belize Defence force team captured first place after collecting seven hundred and eighty-one points. U.B.’s Sea Goliath came in second with seven hundred and forty points, while Sea Sport’s EcoMar was third with seven hundred and eleven.

PACT’s Executive Director Valdemar Andrade says they too are celebrating the successes achieved in just over a decade.

Valdemar Andrade
“PACT has come a long, long way. Initially we were giving out small grants of about seventeen thousand U.S. dollars or just about thirty-five thousand Belize dollars, and now we give grants all the way up to eight hundred thousand dollars for large size grants and medium size grants are three hundred thousand dollars. We also give like eleven thousand different grant types including professional support, we give scholarships to students, we have given over a hundred scholarships to students at home and abroad.”

PACT’s challenge now will be raising the funds to support the implementation of the national protected areas system plan. Meanwhile, Andrade says next week he will be meeting with the new Minister of Natural Resources Florencio Marin to discuss their way forward including amendments to the PACT Act.

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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