Hol Chan Marine Reserve

Note: The data were entered in the language of the country of origin (English, French or Spanish) and there is no translation available yet.


d - Human population and current activities

Inhabitants inside the area or in the zone of potential direct impact on the protected area:

Inside the area In the zone of potential direct impact
Permanent Seasonal Permanent Seasonal
Inhabitants not given not given 22500 not given

Comments about the previous table:

There are no human settlement within the protected area but there are two neighboring communities. HCMR is in the southern tip of Ambergris Caye and San Pedro Town is the only settlement on the island.

Description of population, current human uses and development:

San Pedro Town has an estimated population of approximately 20,000 permanent residents, but this fluctuates with tourism seasons. Tourism is the principal economic activity on the island. In 2007 there were a total of 99 registered hotels. Fishing is still an important activity but to a smaller scale. Most fishermen are permanent tour guides. Others work as fishermen part time only and mainly during the opening of the lobster and conch fishing season. Fulltime fishers are a minority.

Caye Caulker is a neighboring island with a small village community of about 2500 inhabitants. Tourism in an important economic activity but is not as developed as in Ambergris Caye. The village had 73 hotels in 2007, but are smaller than the hotels in San Pedro. Fishing is still a common economic activity in this community however many fishers are also part time tour guides.

Human presence in the MPA is by daily recreational users who access the Marine Reserve to snorkel and dive. In 2009 a total of 58206 visitors went to the Marine Reserve. Of this total 86% were snorkelers and 14% were diver. Tourist generally are from overnight visitors at San Pedro Town and Caye Caulker. Visitors from San Pedro represent 77% and Caye Caulker 23%.

Activities Current human uses Possible development Description / comments, if any
Tourism unknown unknown - 58,206 in 2009. - Snorkeling and diving There are two recreational areas in the back reef and seven dive sites in the deeper fore reef. Mooring buoys are provided for recreational vessels. Anchoring is not allowed
Fishing unknown unknown - Not more than 30 fishermen Local commercial. - Lobster closed season : February 15th to June 14th Conch closed season: July 1st to September 30th
Agriculture unknown unknown None
Industry unknown unknown None
Forestry unknown unknown None
Others very important unknown Recreational Snorkeling and Diving: Snorkeling and diving are the main activities practiced at the marine reserve. There are two recreational areas in the barrier reef of the HCMR. These are the Hol Chan Cut and Shark Ray Alley. In 2009 over 58000 visitors went to the HCMR to snorkel or dive.

e - Other relevant features

Tourism is the principal economic activity in the marine reserve. Tour operators and tour guides are dependent of the protected area to conduct their snorkeling and diving tours. There are almost 400 tour guide in San Pedro and 80 in Caye Caulker Village.

At a smaller scale commercial fishing is another traditional use in the protected area. Fishermen who have been using the area for many years are allowed to continue their fishing practices. They mainly fish for lobster and queen conch.

Aesthetic Interest : The principal area of aesthetic interest is the barrier reef which is also the no-take zone. The HCMR also include a large expanse of pristine mangrove islands with seagrass flats where tarpon, permit and bonefish are commonly found. Amongst the mangrove islands are deep water channel that are inhabited by the endangered West Indian Manatee.

Educational feature:

The marine protected area is an important asset for environmental education awareness. Community members are engaged in environmental education through activities center in conservation of coastal and marine ecosystem and management of the marine reserve. Environmental education is a key component of our management activities. The HCMR has an active environmental education program with stakeholders and the community of San Pedro and Caye Caulker. Two permanent staff members work on the education program which target schools, tour guide and the community as a whole. First hand learning activities such as school trips to the protected area is an important educational activity that is appreciated by those who participate. The education program components include school activities, seminars with tour guides, environmental and volunteer groups.

Scientific feature:

The HCMR conducts a yearly environmental monitoring program to determine health and condition of the area over time. Two permanent biologists are responsible for the environmental monitoring program. The program focuses coral reef, seagrass and mangrove. Commercially valuable species such as lobster and conch are also monitored yearly.

Archaeological feature:

There are no major archeological features within the protected area but there is a Mayan site approximately half a kilometer from the northern boundary of the marine reserve. This small Mayan archeological site was a small trading post and inhabitants used to harvest conch and other marine products many years ago in water that are now part of the marine reserve. Hol Chan is a Mayan word meaning narrow channel.