[Coral-List] Northern Two Cayes, Lighthouse Atoll (Belize) is up for sale: impending loss of premier coral reef conservation, research, education opportunity

Les Kaufman lesk at bu.edu
Mon Nov 29 14:55:30 EST 2010

HI everybody.

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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