News for the Period January 2005 to December 2005
MBRS Supports construction of Nature Trail in Bacalar Chico
The Bacalar Chico Marine Reserve and National Park (BCMRNP), located in the northern half of
Ambergris Caye, is a unique geographic formation, as is evidenced by its reefs, fossil
remains and the combination of marine and terrestrial species which inhabit it, many of
which are of great ecological and economic value. It comprises the most northern part of
the Belize Barrier Reef, a World Heritage Site, and is one of the priority protected areas
of the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef Systems Project. Bacalar Chico’s Canal de la Boca, built
by the Mayas, forms the border between Belize and Mexico.
Bacalar Chico boasts a surface area of 11,487 hectares (marine and terrestrial) and is
administered by the Fisheries Department and the Forest Department of Belize. Its staff
includes a Manager, a Marine Biologist and Park Rangers. The MBRS Project has provided
for the strengthening of the BCMRNP with the construction of a Multiple Use Center as well
as supplying equipment including boats, marine motors, furniture and computers. It
has also supported staff exchanges and delivered training courses and training manuals.
The MBRS Project is now supporting the construction of a nature trail, that will allow
local residents as well as tourists to appreciate the natural beauty and riches of this
important area which is a home for internationally recognized (IUCN, CITES) endangered
species, such as the American crocodile (Crocodylus acutus), the jaguar or American tiger
(Panthera onca), the West Indian Manatee (Trichechus manatus), the hawksbill turtle
(Eretmochelys imbricata) and the green turtle (Chelonia mydas), among others. At the same
time, along with the Multiple Use Center, the trail is an important means of generating
income for the area.
The trail is approximately 16 kilometers long and has a series of palapas at strategic
points to allow visitors to rest or spend the night. The financial support provided by
the MBRS Project complements initiatives by the Belize Fisheries Department, the local NGO
Green Reef, and the British organization Trekforce Expeditions, who contributed by clearing
the trail and constructing the palapas.
The MBRS Project is committed to continuing support for infrastructure which enables
environmental education, ecologically sustainable tourism and income generation for protected
areas, for the benefit of the people of Belize and the international community.
MBRS hosts meeting on Applied Science for Management Actions
The MBRS' latest challenge is to address the negative impacts on the reef which
have been detected through its monitoring initiatives over the past few years.
Although data has been collected to establish a frame of reference for the current
status of the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef through the joint efforts of the various
support agencies in the region, the research and management needs of the resource
managers must now be identified. Solutions to the local problems can often be found
within a regional framework, through the research conducted by a variety of agencies
and through collaboration between such agencies.
To this end, on August 17th and 18th, 2005, the MBRS Project hosted a meeting on
Applied Science for Management Actions for resource conservation in the MBRS and
its zone of influence, which includes the oceanic zone and watersheds. A total of
44 researchers and resource managers from the four member countries met in Cancun,
Mexico to define the specific activities and regional projects to be considered.
Some of the subjects discussed were fisheries, watershed activities that impact the
reef, socio-economic aspects, and specific research projects, among others.
The main objective of this meeting was to identify research needs and priorities as
well as strategies that can be applied to solve regional problems. These will be
implemented through concrete projects, to be defined and developed by a team of
researchers and executed by research centers within the region.
Fifth Ordinary Meeting of the Technical Working Groups
The 5th Ordinary Meeting of the MBRS Technical Working Groups was held in Guatemala City on June 7 and 8, 2005. 62 participants,
including Project Staff, from Belize, Guatemala, Honduras and Mexico spent two days assessing the achievements of the past year
and developing the Annual Work Plan and Budget for the Project Year V,
which runs from July 2005 to June 2006. The discussion focused primarily in streamlining the execution of on-going activities
and ensuring that Project objectives are met as the Project nears completion of its first phase of 5 years.
Following the meeting, the technical 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 2005 for their approval.
Tulum+8 Experts Meeting
In June 1997, the four Heads of State of the countries that now serve as “custodians” of the MBRS -- Belize, Guatemala, Honduras
and Mexico -- gathered in Tulum and adopted the Declaration of Tulum, a formal commitment to collaborate amongst their countries
and seek international support to ensure the conservation and sustainable use of the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef Systems. In June
1998, after extensive consultations carried out under the aegis of the CCAD with scientific experts, government representatives,
non-governmental organizations, local communities and other stakeholders, an Action Plan was adopted to implement the political
commitment of Tulum.
Now, 8 years since the issuance of the Declaration of Tulum, the Tulum+8 Initiative continues the commitments for the creation of
natural protected areas in each of the “custodian” countries, for the encouragement of ecotourism and the regulation of coastal
development, for the prevention of coastal pollution and for the promotion of international financing, scientific research, training
and social participation within a framework of cooperation and mutual understanding amongst all countries involved.
On March 16th and 17th, 2005 the Tulum+8 Experts Consultation was held in Tegucigalpa, Honduras where more than 30 biologists, social
scientists and natural resource managers from: Belize, Guatemala, Honduras and Mexico spent two days evaluating the state of
implementation of the MBRS Action Plan, what programmatic and thematic areas had been missed, and what new areas need to be added.
The final product of this discussion is an updated Action Plan.
The aim of the updated Action Plan is to “consolidate sustainable development opportunities
in the region in the areas of tourism, fisheries, management of marine
protected areas, and research and education, through the rational use and conservation of barrier reef resources.” This Tulum+8
Initiative focused on the assessment of the existing Action Plan in relation to the present circumstances, its level of implementation
and gaps in existing efforts, so as to revitalize it and improve its strategic framework for the sustainable use and protection of the
MBRS hosts Synoptic Monitoring Program Meeting
On March 2nd and 3rd, 2005, the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef Systems (MBRS) Project held the “MBRS Synoptic Monitoring Program (SMP)
Meeting” in Guatemala City. The purpose of this meeting was to evaluate the progress, achievements and new requirements of the MBRS
Synoptic Monitoring Program. The participants in the SMP, with the guidance and support of the MBRS Project, has completed one full
year of this biophysical monitoring program.
During this 2-day meeting, participants addressed each of the monitoring components and presented the progress in each of the monitoring
sites, the use of the database, as well as limitations encountered during the first year of implementation. Based on the discussions,
agreements were formulated on what modifications
are needed to improve the regional Synoptic Monitoring Program and what on-going support is required from the Project.
The participants also revisited some of the discussions of the Technical Working Group Meeting of June 2004 in order to update the new
National Coordinators and Monitoring Coordinators on the planned monitoring activities.