Hol Chan Marine Reserve

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Present briefly the proposed area and its principal characteristics, and specify the objectives that motivated its creation :

The Hol Chan Marine Reserve (HCMR) was established in 1987 to conserve a small but representative portion of Belize's coastal ecosystem. The process of establishing the marine protected area involved a complex set of consultations and compromises between tour guides, fishermen, conservationists and government. ultimately the Marine Reserve was created through a collective initiative.

The HCMR was created under the Fisheries Act as a multi-use protected area. A zoning scheme was developed in order to ensure sustainable use and guarantee its conservation. Hol Chan is divided into four zones. Zone A includes the coral reef and is the no-take zone where only recreational activities are allowed. Zone B protects the sea grass beds. Fishing is allowed but only to traditional users. Spear fishing and netting are prohibited. Zone C provides protection to the mangrove wetlands. sport fishing is a common practice in this area. Zone D is a special management area that was annexed to Hol Chan in 1999. Traditional users are allowed to continue their fishing practice except in the "Exclusive Recreational Area' of Shark Ray Ally.

The marine reserve has become an important snorkel and dive site due to its diversity, size and number of fish found in the area. management have capitalized on tourism by levying a fee on foreign tourist. Revenues from the visitor's fee are reinvested into management activities of the protected area. This has allowed the marine reserve to finance most of its operations. Currently, there is a permanent staff of 16 individual working in enforcement, environmental education and monitoring and research. The marine reserve operates offices and visitors' center from San Pedro town and Caye Caulker.

The HCMR falls under the Fisheries Department and management is conducted through the Hol Chan Marine Reserve Board of Trustees. This is a legal entity created by the Government of Belize to manage the affairs of the marine protected area. The Board of Trustees is made up of private and public sector entities and meet quarterly to deal with issues of the marine reserve.

Explain why the proposed area should be proposed for inclusion in the SPAW list

The need to establish protected areas along the Belize Barrier Reef complex is an important management initiative to preserve this valuable national heritage. The need to protect the reef is particularly urgent in Ambergris Caye where further tourism development seems to be imminent.

Marine Reserves can guarantee the protection of genetic diversity by maintaining critical ecosystems and species in a healthy and viable form. They provide breeding and nursery areas for juveniles of many species. They also serve as seeding ground for area that have been depleted from overfishing. Additionally, they are a major attraction for tourism activities since they are perceive as having a higher quality of marine life and overall experience.

Due to the dynamic nature of coastal management issues in Ambergris Caye, the marine reserve has been in constant evolution to adopt to current management needs. One major change with the size of the protected area. Originally the marine reserve was only 18 square kilometers. In 2008 it was expanded and now it is almost 54 square kilometers or a almost three times its original size.

According to you, to which Criteria it conforms (Guidelines and Criteria B Paragraph 2)

Conservation value
Critical habitats

Cultural and socio-economic criterias

Cultural and traditional use