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Media takes first hand look at unsustainable developments at the Turneffe Atoll

The Turneffe Atoll Trust has conducted a study on the environmental and economic effects of unsustainable development at the Turneffe Atoll.  The study was presented in December 2018 with findings that show the breach of several environmental guidelines and regulations in the Environmental Protection Act and the Integrated Coastal Zone Management Plan.  Today, the Turneffe Atoll Trust took a group of students and the media on a tour of the Atoll to see firsthand what the damages are. Alex Anderson, Executive Director at the Turneffe Atoll Trust said they call on developers to work within the regulations.

Alex Anderson Executive Director, Turneffe Atoll Trust: “We are an advocacy organization. We want to ensure that development projects at Turneffe follow the law, follow the EIA process. I mean we cannot nail home how important that is. There are a lot of developers that want to do things the right way you know and I think really us being an advocacy organization has a lot to do with educating private landowners and investors so that they all know what the right way of doing things is and I think a perfect example is one of the resorts that we are visiting today. They have one of the best EIA’s in my opinion done in Belize and we will get the opportunity to review some of the systems they have in place to show that there are developers that want to do things the right way and are willing to follow the law so I encourage private landowners and developers that want to do something if you all don’t know what the laws are, what the rules are reach out to us. We have a lot of information, we have the development guideline that summarizes every piece of environmental legislation that is in effect at Turneffe.”

The developments have damaged reef flats, mangroves, corals, sea grass and water quality, risking the economic benefits derived from the area, a highly valuable resource. Valentino Shal, a consultant who worked closely on the Risking the Atoll Analysis says the value ranges in the millions of dollars.

Valentino Shal Consultant: “The Turneffe Atoll provides a lot of economic benefits to the country in general but more specifically we get a lot of benefits from fishing and tourism in this area. This area where fishers as you can see them out there today harvesting conch and lobster for export so it generates a lot of income for fishermen and they come from different parts of the country. They come mostly from the north but they come from the Belize District as well and so to these fishers this is their livelihood and it is very important for them so it brings in significant revenue in that way and also for tourism. We have several high end lodges on Turneffe Atoll that provide tourism services for guests and visitors and to operate these places they need a lot of workers. They also generate jobs for Belizeans in that way but other destinations use Turneffe Atoll like Caye Caulker and San Pedro. Because this is a very prime sport fishing area due to the reef flats in this area you get other people coming in this area to use it  and so when you combine the value of the conch and lobster fishery, the sport fishing and the tourism in general which includes swimming and diving and snorkeling, the reef out there. It generates approximately over half of a billion dollars for the country.”

We will have more on the trip today in tomorrow’s newscast