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News for the Period January 2002 to December 2002

MBRS Promotes Regional Integration on Sustainable Tourism Policy
The Mesoamerican Barrier Reef Systems Project is facilitating a permanent Regional Forum on Sustainable Tourism. The methodology for the conduct of this forum and an Operational Manual have been developed through an international consultancy with the support of several national experts within the MBRS countries.

As a first step towards the consolidation of this forum, the MBRS hosted a meeting of tourism stakeholders in December 2002. The objective of this crucial activity was to provide an opportunity for tourism officials, marine protected areas managers, tourism business persons, tour operators and academics of the region to discuss and to implement a permanent Regional Forum on Sustainable Tourism that would foster the development of regional policies among the four MBRS countries. These policies should be consistent with the objectives of coastal and marine conservation, including the principles of social sustainability. An Operations Manual was prepared as part of this exercise, which was used for training within the region and to implement the forum. This document, entitled the Design and Implementation of the MBRS Sustainable Tourism Forum, has been published for dissemination throughout the region.

The MBRS Project supported the participation of 24 delegates from Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras and Belize and trained the delegates in implementation of the forum, with the support of international professionals. The first meeting of the forum was held at the Princess Hotel, in Belize City, from December 5th to 6th, 2002.

Training Course in Monitoring Methodologies
The Mesoamerican Barrier Reef Systems Project (MBRS) held a Training Course in Monitoring Methodologies for its Synoptic Monitoring Program in Belize City, from the 18th to the 23rd November 2002.

The main objectives of this training course were to harmonize and standardize methodologies in the region and to increase regional capacity by training people from Belize, Guatemala, Honduras and Mexico in the methodologies that will be utilized in the Synoptic Monitoring Program, a long-term monitoring program being implemented by the MBRS Project and its partners. Information generated by this monitoring will be used to support decision-making and policy formulation in the management of coastal and marine resources in the MBRS.

Thirty people participated in training in the three core thematic areas of the Synoptic Monitoring Program, namely: a) coral reef ecology and associated ecosystems (mangroves and seagrasses); b) marine pollution; and c) physical oceanography.

Training Course on the Co-Management of Fisheries Resources
The Mesoamerican Barrier Reef Systems Project (MBRS) trained 18 people in a course entitled "Techniques in Fisheries Co-Management", which was held at the Princess Hotel in Belize City from November 13th to 15th, 2002.

This regional workshop was attended by members of fisheries cooperatives and local organizations, as well as Fisheries Department officials from Belize, Guatemala, Honduras and Mexico. Through this effort, a total of 18 persons were trained in techniques of fisheries co-management. The participants analyzed case studies of successful and unsuccessful examples of co-management to learn how fishermen can participate in the conservation and management of the resource on which they depend for their livelihood, as well as how they can benefit and obtain incentives from their participation. This experience-based instruction forms the basis for a technical guide, which was prepared for the course and which describes practical co-management methods that can be implemented throughout the region.

Another objective of the training was that the participants would conduct similar courses at the national level in their respective countries. To this end, the Project Coordinating Unit and the National Coordinaters in each country implemented the national training courses in this topic, training more than 240 officials from the fisheries depratments, fishermen, and local authorities. On the 11, 12, and 13th of December, 2002, the MBRS National Coordination in Honduras, together with those who received training in the regional course and with the financial support of the MBRS Project, conducted the national course. The national training in Guatemala was held on February 5 and 6th of 2003. In Mexico, it took place from February 17 to 19th, 2003 and in Belize on April 8, 11 and 16th of 2003.

200 copies of the bilingual Training Manual on Techniques for Fisheries Co-Management in the MBRS Region have been published and distributed. It serves as a tool in carrying out the training as well as implementing the techniques described therein.

Second Meeting of the Southern Transboundary Park Commission
The Mesoamerican Barrier Reef Systems Project (MBRS) once again reaffirmed its support for the Tri-National Alliance for the conservation of the Gulf of Honduras (TRIGOH), by contributing to the realization of the second meeting of the Southern Transboundary Park Commission, which was held from November 6 to 8th, 2002, in San Pedro Sula, Honduras.

The primary mission of this commission is to strengthen efforts towards regional cooperation in the management of marine and coastal resources shared among Belize, Guatemala and Honduras. Discussions focused on topics such as ranger patrolling, common management plans for marine and coastal areas, synchronization of the closed seasons for fisheries, promotion of exemplary practices in sustainable tourism and the tri-national management of migratory species, as well as other related themes.

In accordance with MBRS's commitment to public participation, this meeting was attended by representatives of civil society, NGO's and government agencies. It is expected that these discussions will result in concrete recommendations that can be elevated to regional policies in order to harmonize the environmental management and legislation in the transboundary zone.

Training in Design and Development of Management Plans for Marine Protected Areas
To foster the ecological sustainability and the economic strengthening of the Marine Protected Areas, the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef Systems Project (MBRS) conducted a training course, from September 23 to 27, 2002 on the Design and Development of Management Plans for Marine Protected Areas (MPAs).

This course was geared towards directors and administrators of MPAs, park management staff, governmental organizations, NGOs and universities involved in management and co-management of MPAs within the MBRS region, especially those within transboundary zones. This training course covered zoning, environmental education, tourism, research, monitoring, park protection and patrolling, and financial strategies, among others.

The intention was to train professionals from Belize, Guatemala, Honduras and Mexico so that they could carry out similar training sessions in their own countries, thus multiplying the benefit of this effort, through the 20 people who attended. The training was held at the Princess Hotel in Belize City, and was conducted by a regional expert in this field.

200 copies of the accompanying bilingual document Training Manual on Design and Development of Management Plans for Marine Protected Areas have been published and distributed throughout the region. This document serves as an important tool in the development and updating of management plans and should be of great use to those MPA's which are in the process of developing or revising their plans.

Training in the Monitoring of Reef Fish Aggregations Sites
As part of the activities programmed in the Annual Work Plan 2002-2003, a training course entitled "Training in the Monitoring of Reef Fish Aggregation Sites" was held from August 26 to August 30, 2002 at the Glover's Reef Marine Reserve in Belize. The course was a cooperative effort between the MBRS Project and the Department of Fisheries of the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries of Belize, to train representatives from Belize, Guatemala, Honduras and Mexico in monitoring protocols for reef fish aggregation sites. These protocols include identification, site determination, estimation of capture and of population density, data collection and analysis, among others. The Green Reef Environmental Institute and The Nature Conservancy provided technical support for this event.

It is expected that the trainees would employ these standardized monitoring protocols in their own countries, to provide inputs into the development of national and regional policies for sustainable use of the resource.

The course was attended by representatives from Marine Protected Areas and Fisheries Departments, amounting to a total of 23 professionals who participated in this event.

Training of Press Officers from the Mesoamerican Environment Ministries
To promote effective communication with communities through journalistic media, the MBRS Project, in coordination with the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and the Mesoamerican Biological Corridor (MBC) Project, offered a workshop on the health and regional economic importance of the reef ecosystem. Other topics broached were the vulnerability of the ecosystems and the development opportunities offered by the resource. The workshop was held from August 5 to 7 at the Cayos Cochinos Marine Reserve in Honduras.

This workshop was a response to the needs expressed by governmental and non-governmental organizations responsible for managing environmental information media in the region. The MBRS Project supported the attendance of 15 participants, including 4 government press officers, 3 regional representatives and 8 environmental media professionals from civil society.

Additionally, as a product from this workshop, a Journalistic Research and Communications Guide is being developed for use in coastal communities.

First Meetings of the Transboundary Park Commissions
The first meeting of the MBRS Southern Transboundary Park Commission (Honduras, Guatemala, Belize) took place from May 27 to 29, 2002, in Puerto Barrios, Izabal, Guatemala. In this first meeting, the Tri-national Organization for the Gulf of Honduras (TRIGOH), which comprises environmental NGOs and the academic sector of the Caribbean region, accepted the responsibility of being the MBRS Southern Commission. The meeting was attended by 30 participants, who on this occasion also included representatives from the governments of these three countries.

Similarly, the first meeting of the MBRS Northern Transboundary Park Commission (Belize-Mexico) was held from June 26 to 28 of 2002, at the University of Quintana Roo, Chetumal, Quintana Roo, Mexico. The Belize-Mexico Alliance for the Management of Common Coastal Resources (BEMAMCCOR), an organization comprised of environmental NGO's and academic institutes located in the Chetumal Bay, accepted the responsibility of being the Northern Commission. An estimated 25 people attended the meeting, including representatives from the governments of both countries.

Final reports, containing recommendations on marine protected areas, tourism and sustainable fisheries, as well as migratory species are being prepared. These recommendations will be translated into regional policies through the efforts of the Comisión Centroamericana de Ambiente y Desarrollo (CCAD).

3rd Ordinary Regional Steering Committee Meeting
The 3rd Ordinary Meeting of the Regional Steering Committee was held on June 26, 2002, in Belize City, Belize to discuss and approve the Annual Work Plan and Budget for Project. Year II. The Plan for the Period 2002 - 2003 proposes the investment of an estimated $3.5 million US dollars, distributed across 5 project components, towards the conservation of the Mesoamerican barrier reef and the sustainable development of the region, during the second project year.

Income Generation Training Course for Mesoamerican Protected Areas
From June 18 to 22 , 2002, a Training Workshop on Income Generation for Protected Areas was held in Puerto Barrios, Izabal, Guatemala. The workshop was a joint effort between the MBRS Project, PROARCA/APM, the Mesoamerican Biological Corridor, WWF-Central America, and the Nature Conservancy. The workshop was attended by 35 participants from the Mesoamerican region (Mexico to Panama), of which, 15 were sponsored by the MBRS Project, including Directors of Marine Protected Areas from Mexico, Belize, Guatemala, and Honduras, and government officials from the Departments of Protected Areas of these countries. Six experts in this field made presentations and distributed support materials, that were subsequently put into practice by the working groups who produced proposals for Financial Strategies for Utila/Turtle Harbor, Cayos Cochinos, (in Honduras) Punta de Manabique, Sarstún, (in Guatemala) Bacalar Chico (in Belize) y Parque Nacional Costa Occidental de Isla Mujeres, Punta Cancún y Punta Nizuc (in Mexico).

2nd Ordinary Meeting of the Technical Working Groups
The 2nd Ordinary Meeting of the MBRS Technical Working Groups was held in Flores, Peten in the Selva Maya of Guatemala on June 6 and 7, 2002. More than 40 participants from Belize, Guatemala, Honduras and Mexico spent two days assessing the achievements of the first year and developing the Annual Work Plan and Budget for Project Year II, which runs from July 2002- June 2003. After the meeting, the staff of the MBRS Project incorporated the contributions received during the meeting to produce the Annual Work Plan which was presented to the Regional Steering Committee at the end of June 2002.

Working Meeting on Certification for Environmentally Sustainable Tourism
On May 30-31, 2002, a working meeting on the Certification of Environmentally Sustainable Tourism was held in Belize City, Belize. National Coordinators (or their representatives) and delegates of Tourism Institutes of the four MBRS countries participated. Tourism officials of PROARCA/APM, representatives from the Costa Rican Institute of Tourism and from CCAD also attended. The discussions in this meeting revealed that the Certification Program for Tourism Sustainability designed in Costa Rica, which has been adopted by the Central American nations, currently focuses on the hotel sector and should be extended to other tourism operations, such as diving, cruise ships, marinas, etc., to reduce the impact of these activities on coastal and marine ecosystems.

Expert Meetings
The MBRS Project held its first round of Expert Meetings in Cancun, Mexico from the 13th to the 19th of May 2002. More than 50 international and regional experts in the fields of coral reef ecology, oceanography, marine biology, marine protected areas monitoring, environmental information systems, and web-based distributed networks participated. The objective of the meeting was to support the establishment of an environmental monitoring and information system and to strengthen the management of coastal and marine areas in Mesoamerica. This meeting also offered the opportunity to enrich the final products of various consultancies which the Project is currently undertaking, with the contributions of the expert participants.

2nd Ordinary Regional Steering Committee Meeting
The 2nd Ordinary Session of the MBRS Regional Steering Committee was held on March 12, 2002 in Cancun, Mexico. The Committee comprises the National Coordinators from Belize, Guatemala, Honduras and Mexico, as well as the Project Director and a representative from the implementing agency, Comisión Centroamericana de Ambiente y Desarrollo (CCAD). Key items on the agenda include discussions on the Project's First Progress Report, upcoming meetings, the proposed MBRS Tourism Certification Program, and the Establishment of Strategic Alliances and Role of Countries, among other topics.

Project Supervision Mission
The 1st Project Supervision Mission was conducted between February 18 to 27, 2002. Given that the Project was recently declared "Effective" by the World Bank, the Mission's purpose was to ensure that the Project was equipped with the necessary human, technical and financial resources to enable a successful start to project implementation. In addition to visiting key players in Belize, Guatemala, Honduras and Mexico, the Mission also consulted with the Governments of these countries to renew Government commitment to the Project.

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