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An important workshop that brought together managers and stakeholders of various marine protected areas from the region took place in Toledo. The organizers said that their communication has led to collaborative efforts in Honduras, Belize and Mexico. Toledo correspondent Paul Mahung reports.

Paul Mahung, Toledo Correspondent: “Managers from Marine Protected Areas Network Gulf and Caribbean completed a working visit to Punta Gorda and other parts of Belize. During working sessions in Belize last week the visiting managers spent a day in Punta Gorda where their meeting was hosted by TIDE. Coordinator of The Marine Protected Areas Network of Gulf and Caribbean Fisheries Institute Emma Doyle spoke to Love News.

Emma Doyle,  Coordinator, Marine Protected Areas Network: “This week in Belize we’ve held a series of meetings to wrap up a two year project that’s been supported through the Gulf and Caribbean Fisheries Institute and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration of the US through the Coral Reef Conservation Program. We work actually with thirty marine reserves around the Caribbean region that are really important priority sites for fisheries, for sustainable fisheries and local livelihoods. This week we held meetings with the Belize Audubon Society, the Belize Fisheries Department and together with Belize Audubon Society and Turneffe Atoll Marine Reserve, the representatives from South Water Caye Marine Reserve and with some international visitors. We had visitors from Honduras Roatan and from as far away as St.Vincent and the Grenadines and also from the Turks and Caicos Islands who have been represented here learning about what’s been achieved in the last two years in implementing reef protectors by Belize Audubon Society and support of youth education to the marine environment. There was a fisher exchange between Belize and Mexico and we shared about progress on that and what was learned. We also shared about the program to support alternative sustainable livelihoods for fishers and for fishing communities.

Paul Mahung, Toledo Correspondent: “Another member of the visiting team was Roatan Marine Park Board Member Jenny Myton.”

Jenny Myton, Roatan Marine Park Board Member: “So I’m here representing the Roatan Marine Park and we have been collaborating in this regional network and it’s really interesting to learn all about what TIDE is doing. With the Port Honduras we share the same threats of overfishing, unsustainable tourism that we are also looking for the same solutions and together we think we can learn and share experiences so that we can both strengthen the network and manage or MPAs in a more protective ways.

Paul Mahung, Toledo Correspondent: Tell us something about your experiences in Roatan.

Jenny Myton, Roatan Marine Park Board Member: “Well we have a lot of threats, we have over one million tourists that are coming every year and we have issues as well with infrastructure so it’s always a difficult task. This NGO that I represent doesn’t get any government funding so we have to fundraise all on our own and we’re supporting the authorities and trying to work together to improve the reefs. In fact we’ve had some really good results after ten years of doing a lot of enforcement in the area we’re now seeing a lot more fish biomass and the reef’s recovering.”

Paul Mahung, Toledo Correspondent: Before departing the visiting managers from Marine Protected Areas Network of Gulf and Caribbean expressed gratitude for the productive administrative level meeting sessions and appreciated the wam Belizean hospitality experienced during their working visit in Punta Gorda and other locations of Belize.