[Coral-List] Northern Two Cayes, Lighthouse Atoll (Belize) is up for sale: impending loss of premier coral reef conservation, research, education opportunity
lesk at bu.edu
Mon Nov 29 14:55:30 EST 2010
Lighthouse Atoll is the most remote of the Caribbean atolls, about 50
miles east of Belize City.
Lighthouse Atoll is the site of the world-famous Blue Hole celebrated
by Jacques Cousteau, and nearby wildlife-rich Half Moon Caye, which
is managed by the Belize Audubon Society.
Besides Half Moon, there are two other large islands, each with a
minute satellite. Long Caye is privately owned by a group of New
Englanders who have opted for a large private marine reserve, and
minimal, hard-green development on the remaining land, including a
now well-known dive inn. Teensy Hat Caye is part of the Long Caye
Northern Two Cayes together comprise the remaining land on the
atoll. Northern Caye has a high sand ridge plus two large mangrove-
encircled marine lakes, of considerable biological interest. Next
door is the very small Sanbore Caye. Northern Caye once hosted the
Lighthouse Atoll Dive Resort.
Northern Two Cayes are on the block. See: www.IslandsOnTheAtoll.com
Lighthouse is that portion of the MesoAmerican Barrier Reef complex
that is the most removed from terrestrial impacts. This makes it a
premier location for the study of climate change effects in the
tropical West Atlantic. The corals are recovering, and while the
fish assemblages are overfished, they are in better condition than in
many other parts of the Caribbean. The no-take area at Half-Moon has
been successful, and additional conservation measures at Lighthouse
have a likelihood of high return. We have data on conditions at Half
Moon from the MMAS program at Conservation International, and the
Belize Audubon Society has its own ecological monitoring program for
Half Moon Caye.
In sum, massive development on Lighthouse Atoll would be in very few
peoples' best interests, would threaten an already troubled World
Heritage site, and would compromise an extremely promising site for
climate change research, coral reef and fisheries restoration, and
species and habitat conservation.
Until recently, several international NGO's were involved in the idea
of working with the Government of Belize to treat Lighthouse Atoll,
Turneffe Atoll, and the blue water between, as a Marine Management
Area with strengthened conservation measures in place. This idea
seems to have been a victim of the poor global economy.
The focus is now on Lighthouse Atoll.
Belize wants to do the right thing, but the world is market-driven.
A private investor named John ("Buddy") Mills has been working with
The Nature Conservancy and Conservation International for several
years to try and pull together a conservation alternative to massive
development. However, he can no longer hang on to the options for
Northern Two Cayes, and is hoping that the conservation community can
help him prevent the property from falling into the wrong hands.
Buddy's email address is: millsgroup at bellsouth.net
Wake Forest College has proposed an innovative plan for education,
science, and conservation as an alternative to destructive
development on Northern Two Cayes. Buddy and Wake Forest are looking
for partners, financing, ideas.
We often debate on this list about what we can do to forestall and
reverse the decline of coral reefs. Here is a concrete opportunity
that right on the flagship of the tropical west Atlantic. But this
is the real world- debate is not the issue, financing is.
Any takers? Benevolent celebrities? Imaginative and far-thinking
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