Site: Belize Barrief Reef System
What is your personal relation to the marine WHS you represent?
I grew up in a fishing family whose livelihood was seriously impacted by the establishment of the Port Honduras Marine Reserve (PHMR), which in turn constitutes a part of the Belize Barrier Reef System World Heritage Site (BBRRS-WHS).
While I initially saw conservation as a bad thing for my family and other fishers in my community, coming from a fishing family has given me the opportunity to see the negative effects that certain fishing methods, like nets and trawlers can have to marine ecosystems and even worse on the Belize Barrier Reef.
I now see things from a different point of view, fishermen are not the problem; they are part of the solution for a better fishing industry in the Mesoamerican Reef and worldwide. Now I try to change the negative minds of many local and foreign fishers so they can understand the importance of conservation and resource protection to enhance healthy stocks for now and future generations. I remain dedicated to using my scientific fieldwork skills as well as my family history, social and professional connections within my community, and the organisational networks in Belize and neighbouring countries to contribute to sustainable solutions that enable fishing communities to benefit from their marine resources for generations to come.
What are the specific problems and threats of your marine WHS?
There are a large number of threats to the BBRRS-WHS, including our management area – PHMR. These include anthropogenic runoff from agriculture and industry, overfishing under an open fisheries management policy, illegal trans-boundary fishing, increasing human population, mass tourism (resort and cruise ship), lionfish invasion, climate change, ocean trash, unsustainable fishing methods, deforestation leading to increased sedimentation, earthquakes and most recently, offshore oil exploration, despite the incumbent OCEANA campaign.
Why do you think is it important to safeguard your marine WHS?
In any country fortunate enough to have coral reefs and associated marine resources, these form essential lifelines for millions of people around the world. In a small developing country like Belize, where economic development and diversification of economic sectors are still in their infancy and livelihood options are limited, the WHS is of paramount importance to the social wellbeing of the nation. Tourism and fishing are the two primary employment sectors in Belize, with the majority of other industries being indirectly dependent on these. There has recently been a push to develop an oil industry here in Belize. However, this would pose extremely high risk to the BBRRS-WHS, as many of the proposed drilling sites are in or near marine and terrestrial reserves. It is my belief, that we need to continue research to demonstrate the priceless value of our incredible World Heritage Site, by means of nationally coordinated monitoring programs, education and outreach, so that we can protect those resources that have shown themselves to sustainably support our nation, rather than risk losing these to other high risk industries that not only could destroy our barrier reef, but have not been shown by their advocates to provide long term economic security for our people.