The Turneffe Atoll Sustainability Association (TASA), the Ministries of the Blue Economy and Tourism launched, what is described as the next step in improving Belize’s profile as a tourist destination. Divers and tourists will soon get to see “The Wit Concrete”, a 375-foot vessel that was shipwrecked in Belize’s waters. Built between 1942 and1944, it was a floating transfer station to transport supplies around the Gulf Coast and Eastern Seaboard of the US during the World War Two. Most recently, she was used for the storage of molasses by the Belize Sugar Industries Ltd. (BSI), who gifted her to TASA in May 2021. Now that this vessel is being repurposed, we asked TASA’s executive director, Valdemar Andrade how this next venture will create jobs.
Valdemar Andrade, Executive Director, TASA: “In talking to both the resort owners and the eighteen operators that operate with us and the Belize Tourism Board we’re all looking at a product to relaunch all of those resorts and operators and so those eighteen operators that do their operations and the four resorts definitely this will be a major aspect in keeping them full and keeping them running. So I will start with that. I think it will grow over time as people after this there will certainly be more interest and we will have to manage that interest but I will keep it at that for now. You know in terms of the numbers that are there and certainly we are looking at well over a thousand people in terms of employees and people that work at those resorts and operations.”
The Wit will become Belize’s largest wreck dive and reef enhancement project to be located at Blackbird Caye, within the Soldier Caye Conservation Zone in the Turneffe Atoll Marine Reserve. According to Andrade, it will relieve stress on natural reef habitats, while providing an exciting alternative wreck dive destination. Love News asked how this will coexist with delicate marine ecosystems nearby.
Valdemar Andrade, Executive Director, TASA: “This was one of the tough questions that we were asked about by the Ministry of Blue Economy, Oceana and many people. So the idea here is that we are putting down this to be able to create an artificial reef. So in creating an artificial reef we will be replanting coral is one of the major aspects and so we will be adding value to the environment. It will also become a fishing aggregation device because at the end of the day fishes will congregate as corals grow because the corals bring fish and they work in harmony with each other because you will also get the grazers who will help the coral to grow over time. And so it also allows us to spread divers from the natural dive sites and be able to spread them out over different spaces. Eventually you have to look at how you spread day operators and resort operators who operate there on a daily basis year round and are our central focus in terms of our business. So in my estimation it really adds value and it really adds an opportunity for us now to look at what else can we do in terms of adding to the environment and bringing in other aspects. But I’ll tell you the most important part of this that I don’t want anybody to miss. This has allowed us to have a real conversation with our private sector partners because before this we would approach them with the big stick and say we have an SI that says you have to pay the fee but now we’re adding value, we’re bringing a product and then now we’re talking about conservation based on that product so it’s a launching point for us the government and the private sector to really join to be able to say okay this is how we can make this approach and so from that point of view the funds that are gonna come from this are gonna impact the entire TASA team to be able to do the conservation work and you can grill me later on the key performance indicators for that because we should be able to product that for you in a couple years.”