The fight to save Belize’s pristine flats has once again reached a turning point, a new building development is once again proposing to dredge flats, build docks and essentially create flats devoid of life. And Bonefish Tarpon Trust is once again taking the lead to work with the local fly fishing industry to protect these precious, delicate ecosystems.
Back in 2014, BTT and Yellow Dog Flyfishing Adventures co-sponsored the first Belize Flats Fishing Summit in Belize City. The Summit brought together more than 40 guides and lodge owners from throughout coastal Belize, from Punta Gorda in the south to San Pedro in the north, and points in between. They came together to discuss the challenges they were facing in their home waters, and to find a common theme moving forward toward better national management of the flats resources.
One of the top threats they saw to the flats fishery was habitat loss and degradation, a never-ending issue that threatens the fishery.
BTT continues to provide assistance to those in Belize who are fighting development that is impacting flats habitats. Back in 2016, Leonardo DiCaprio’s proposed Blackadore Caye development would have built piers and bungalows over the flats, dredged the flats, increased boat traffic, and created a no-go zone around the island. Combined, these actions, which were vigorously opposed by BTT, would have halted flats fishing around the caye.
Now comes Caye Destruction Version 2.0—also known as Cayo Rosario. Reading the Environmental Impact Statement is, to quote Yogi Bera, “like déjà vu all over again.” This is essentially the same plan (overwater structures, dredging of the flats), and the EIA has the same statement: the flats around Cayo Rosario are deserts, devoid of any life. That’s an amazing claim given the number of bonefish and permit that are caught by flats anglers on the flats around the caye.
As we did with Blackadore, BTT has released a statement citing the negative impacts of the proposed Cayo Rosario development. And we recently assisted the Hol Chan Marine Reserve with their statement of opposition.
In the big picture, threats to fisheries like overfishing can be corrected by new management measures and enforcement. But habitat loss is permanent. With less habitat comes fewer fish. Fewer fish mean fewer anglers. Fewer anglers mean less economic input and fewer jobs. The catch and release flats fishery is sustainable. Habitat destruction is not.
BTT will continue to help collaborators in Belize fight these ill-conceived developments and work to revise the management approach to one that is sustainable. Stay tuned, and when asked please make your voice heard.