Corozal Conservation Groups Raise Concern Over Mangrove Clearing
The Corozal Town Council in a press release yesterday announced that it passed a resolution on the protection of mangroves in that municipality. The release says that (quote) “the Council members noted the importance of mangroves, in the face of evident coastal deterioration and damage caused by the effects of climate change and also irresponsible human alteration.” (end of quote) The release comes after Corozalenos noticed that mangroves at the entrance of Corozal were cut. Two days ago PUP Corozal Bay Area Representative Elvia Vega took to Facebook, taking responsibility for what she described as “trimming”. Vega said that protocols were carefully adhered to and permission was sought by the Forestry Department for the trimming of mangroves in a specific area. The Sarteneja Alliance for Conservation and Development (SACD) has weighed in on the matter saying, “the recent and unfortunate mangrove removal that took place along the coastline of Corozal Town raises serious concerns for SACD.” The Executive Director of SACD, Joel Verde, explains that rangers patrol the area on a weekly basis to monitor the integrity of the trees and also collect data. He says the discovery was both disheartening and concerning as it undermines the work of the organization and creates a risk factor for the community.
Joel Verde, Executive Director, Sarteneja Alliance for Conservation and Development: “While it’s not an area, a large expanse of mangrove that was cut down at the end of the day it was concerning because it contradictory to the whole efforts of the organization in its effort to bring awareness of the importance of the mangrove ecosystems in these different communities that we work with. In terms of our legal authority we are not prosecutors of illegal activities related not just for mangroves but for any other illegal activity. We are sort of intermediaries in terms of we are the eyes on the ground, our rangers have the authority to be able to assess illegal mangrove clearance, they are there to be able to develop the reports and to then submit to the relevant department, in this case to the Forest Department for further prosecution and so part of our management efforts have been to be able to use replanting of mangroves in this specific communities Corozal Town being one of them.”
According to Verde, authorities have taken three persons for questioning; however further investigations need to be conducted to ascertain who was responsible for the cutting of the trees.
Joel Verde, Executive Director, Sarteneja Alliance for Conservation and Development: “We did our preliminary assessment on Monday which was yesterday and as far as we know there were three individuals that were taken into custody to be questioned regarding the issue and at that point in time there was still no confirmation of who was the authority that granted permission for that and there was no confirmation of having a permit. Like I said our due diligence takes us all the way to be able to submit the report to the Forest Department which is what we did immediately after the assessment was done yesterday and so far we have not been able to confirm if there was a permit granted for that but at this point in time now it is the responsibility of the Forest Department to provide the follow up that is required in granted charges if that would be the case. While a lot of this development are not large in scale when they’re accumulated then obviously we can see the impact of the mangroves being removed in the entire coast line. So our rangers have three primary objectives in their surveillance effort one of course being targeted at illegal fishing and the other obviously being targeted at mangrove clearance and development areas in the entire coastline of Corozal Bay. So our patrols would range from at least visiting the entire coast line at least once throughout the week so I would say that there would be at least five patrols targeted at development and mangrove clearance along the coast line every month.”
Vega says that she is (quote) “cognizant of the importance of our ecosystem and would in no way do things haphazardly. Work continues as to the clearing of the extensive garbage and tires in the pond area for an Eco-tourism project. This project is for public coexistence with the natural environment.” (end of quote) The Corozal Town Council says that it expects to be informed by regulatory agencies of any requests for alterations of mangroves within the municipality, before the issuance of any permit, in order to determine the scope and impact of such request. Love News has contacted the Forest Department. The illegal trimming, removal or cutting of mangroves is prosecutable by law and can carry a fine of $25,000 or imprisonment.