Concerning Dredging and the San Pedro Town Board

Mike Campbell, San Pedro – A walk on the beach almost anywhere in San Pedro is very disturbing for most residents. The beach erosion is appalling and has affected our quality of life. This extreme erosion has mostly happened in the last 4 years or so. The causes of this are rather simple actually. The extreme dredging that has been conducted all along the coast of San Pedro has allowed the deep water to get closer to shore, in some cases touching the shore with the resultant loss of the beach due to erosion caused by wave action. In the future big storms will do much more damage than in the past as the natural barrier to the wave action has been removed by dredging. This is irreversible and we will have to live with it.

Both the original master plan and the new proposed master plan condemn the practice of dredging on the east side of the Island and the D.O.E. has cautioned against it as well. Why then are we continuing to dredge the coast? The problem lies with both the San Pedro Town Council and the Government of Belize represented by the D.O.E.

Our Town Council has approved all of these dredging activities that provide convenience and profit for a few while the population as a whole is paying the price for the destruction our environment. Any developer thats wants to dredge has only to ask the Town Council. Our Mayor is on record as favoring all developments. This irresponsible attitude is destroying the island as we know it. At very least these decisions are short sighted and show complete lack of understanding of the ecology of the Island and how to protect our home. Even “responsible” local developers seek and are granted permission to dredge even though they are well aware of the environmental problems associated with dredging. They can get a permit so they will. The DOE acts directly on the recommendations of the Town Council and serves no real function except to legitimize the decision.

Belize has a fledgling sport fishing industry that is currently bringing in around $30 million USD annually and employs around 1,800 Belizeans nationwide. The Bahamas have developed their sports fishing industry into a 300 Million annual business. Our fishing is much better than the Bahamas as all know. Bonefish are one of the three major sports fish in Belize. They breed and are hatched off the reef in deep water and then make their way to the shallows where they live in about 1’ of water until mature. Bonefish tend to stay where they grow up. They depend on the grassy sea bed, the mangroves and sandy flats for their existence. Studies have shown that if the environment is dramatically changed they leave and never come back as they loose the memory of that run. The flats of North Ambergris Caye and the Lagoons are critical in the life cycle of all the sport fish.

Every time the Town Council and the DOE approve dredging along the east coast of Ambergris Caye they seriously damage our chances of developing the sport fishing industry into the $300 million dollar industry it could be and further compound the damage already done to our beaches and shoreline habitats. I noticed a large dredge headed north Tuesday evening for more environmental destruct for the profit of a few. At this rate there will be nothing left for our children. They will only be able to try to clean up and try to rectify our irresponsible actions all the while cursing us for what we have done.

The Town Council should be very ashamed of these actions and we should all feel shame for not stopping it somehow. Ignorance must have played a part as no one would deliberately do this to their own home, however ignorance is no excuse when you are the government. The Town Council has consistently ignored all environmental protests from concerned citizens and environmental organizations. This head in the sand attitude can no longer be tolerated.

My son is in university in the US. I recently communicated what was happening to his Island and he was appalled. His comment was “Dad what is wrong with them, don’t they know the environment is all we have in San Pedro?” This comment was specifically concerning the Mayors recommendation that Sea Trek proceed in Mexico Rocks. The dredging permits that have been issued are even more destructive to our Island than Sea Trek would have been for Mexico Rocks by many degrees.

The Town Council must stop this irresponsible issuing of dredging permits immediately. I am tired of sitting quietly while my home is being systematically destroyed. It is time to call a spade a spade and quit pretending that everything is ok because things are not ok.

The Town Council has been involved in many permitting situations that were strongly protested by those the Town Council pretends to represent with all permits granted even though we all know they are detrimental to environment to the extreme. They should be held accountable for there actions. They can start to regain our confidence by shutting down the dredging. “What is wrong with them, don’t they know the environment is all we have in San Pedro?”

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