Earlier in the month, a joint press release was issued by the Ministry of Blue Economy, the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries, Forestry, the Environment and Sustainable Development and the Toledo Institute for Development and Environment (TIDE). The subject of the release is the important coral reef ecosystem known as the Corona Reef or Cayman Crown, which straddles the maritime boundary between southern Belize and Guatemala. The Corona Reef is the most under-represented habitat in the marine protected areas system a biologically important hotspot that was declared protected in both Belize and Guatemala. TIDE obtained a valid research permit from the Belize Fisheries Department and began research in February 2020. TIDE’s Guatemalan counterparts, FUNDAECO joined the research this year and also obtained a license from the Belize Fisheries Department. The press release says that TIDE intends to access research permits from Guatemala when conducting research in the Guatemalan marine protected area. And therin lies the contention as Activist Geovannie Brackett says that there is no need for TIDE to obtain a Guatemalan license since the reef is not part of Guatemala’s maritime territory. Brackett fired off a press statement today in which he said that informed persons are suggesting that previous attempts to map the coral systems in Belize have not revealed any reefs in Guatemalan waters and that those studies include Belize’s EEZ data, which was mapped by Jan Meerman and the Allen Coral Atlas. Brackett further explains that both of those studies aren’t indicating any transboundary reef systems, therefore, that there is no need for TIDE to get permits from the Guatemalan authorities to study the Corona Reef, because “it is completely within Belize’s waters.”
Geovannie Brackett, Activist: “I’m not against in a policy way working with partnering with neighboring countries to do their part in protecting the marine environment because we know that pollution affects the marine environment all they way up into our waters whether it’s from Florida or Honduras. We do want to protect our marine system, what we don’t want to do is in the spirit of protection that we give any credence to this notion that any sort of our territory belongs to Guatemala that’s why I have a very big problem with this partnership. This is actually saying you’re getting permission from the Guatemalan authorities to research in your very own territory, why are we countenancing those crazy set of people who think that Guatemala owns Belize ?”
Reporter: How do you believe TIDE and the Fisheries Department should have approached the matter ?
Geovannie Brackett, Activist: “It’s very simple, you don’t need permission from Guatemala. “You send out a diplomatic note to your friends and you say you continue – we’ve been doing research in that area for umpteen years we don’t need to get no permission from Guatemala. What we do need is a neighbor who is responsible, a neighbor who takes care of their business while we take care of ours. At some point we have to stop appeasing Guatemala and so it was not necessary for us to go into any partnership for their section of the Corona Reef there is no Guatemalan section of the Corona Reef that is crazy and so we should not have ever even think about doing this. What needed to be done is protest and send out our Coast Guard along with our marine in the BDF and we send out our protection with our researchers, we protect them and we continue to protect them and act as if though we own Belize.”
Brackett calls on the Government to intervene, find another way, reject the agreement and reinforce that Belize has the largest living Barrier Reef in the world.