Cayo Rosario Development: Hol Chan Marine Reserve is For the People Of Belize, Not Private Gain

Development is planned and has been approved for Cayo Rosario on the leeward side of Ambergris Caye.  This press release really says it all but first…a bit of background.  And a few pictures.


Cayo Rosario is the caye that you see when you visit Secret Beach.

There is a huge sandbar to the south of Cayo Rosario where San Pedrano MJ Leslie and his team teach kite surfing…

To the left in the photo, Cayo Rosario

And where the flyfishermen of Ambergris Caye take their guests for catch and release permit and bonefish…

Flyfishing off Cayo Rosario

It is also smack dab in the middle of Hol Chan Marine Reserve.  In 2016, after being proposed by Minister Heredia and Mayor Guerrero and years of work, the reserve was expanded to include these important flats and mangroved islands – all area heavily used by the fishing guides and tour guides of Ambergris Caye.  (Below I’ve added an arrow for Cayo Rosario and a label for Secret Beach))

Cayo Rosario is privately owned by Developer John Turley (you can read more about the transfer of land from public to private and the developer here.)

I understand that the island is now private.  I may not like it.  I may not like the developer.

But here is what absolutely SHOULD NOT HAPPEN.

You should not buy a tiny island (about 5 acres of lagoon and mangrove)

You should not pitch a project on this island to investors WITHOUT ANY DEVELOPMENT PERMISSION from the Govt of Belize and collect over $1 Million US dollars for development of this island.  (Here is the 2015 SEC Notice of Offering of Securities Form)


Here was the original RIDICULOUS plan and the new plan – side by side.  Showing the concessions they made.

Is going from preposterous to merely ridiculous a concession?

They suggest that these over the water structures only comprise 7.5% of their total land area.  Is it just me?  Or does that outrigger look about the same size as their land?

Here is the EIA Supplement – the final plan.  Where they call the final plan the “minimum economic limit”.

Perhaps if you wanted to build this many units to make money, you should have purchased a bigger island.

The EIA also suggests that 54 over the water buildings “allows the development to be competitive to other destinations throughout the Caribbean and Mexico that offer over water stays.”

Perhaps we need giant water slides and dolphin parks too?

Is this really how we want to compete?  It is Belize’s natural wonders and commitment to conserve these special features that make BELIZE SPECIAL.  We don’t need to be everything to everyone.

This water is HOL CHAN MARINE RESERVE.  Public for the people of this country.  You do not own the flats and you should not be able to sell units over it.

If this project is allowed to go forward, is all of Hol Chan Marine Reserve open to this sort of development?   Is all our sea bed fair game?

Here is the press release.  PLEASE MAKE IT A TOP PRIORITY TO ATTEND THIS MEETING.  Hotel owners and employees, tour guides and residents, families – this honestly affects every single person on this island.

We need to show these developers and the board that approved this project that this is not something our island needs.

LIONS DEN, MAY 15th at 5:30pm

This is not just about “the back side of the island” – this is about Hol Chan Marine Reserve and what conservation areas mean to this island.

It is about keeping professional jobs like flyfishing on this island rather than just trying to attract more construction work.


Islanders Stand Against Large Scale Over-the-Water Development in the Hol Chan Marine Reserve

In April 2018, residents of San Pedro and Caye Caulker received word that the highly contested Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) for development at Cayo Rosario had been approved.  This small mangrove caye lies in the center of the newly expanded Hol Chan Marine Reserve. Approval comes despite vehement objection to the construction of numerous over-the-water structures and extensive dredging within the newly expanded Hol Chan Marine Reserve.  

Hol Chan Marine Reserve is the #1 attraction for visitors to Belize.  We assert that it is the integrity of our natural resources and our protected lands that makes Ambergris Caye and Belize a premier tourism destination.

This small size of the island (currently about 6 acres) vs. the large-scale development plan, the location within a marine reserve and the heavy use of the area by our island community must be crucial considerations.

Critical points to note:

  • The final approval for the EIA is given by the National Environmental Appraisal Committee (NEAC).  The board is comprised by members of 10 Government Agencies and 3 independent groups. There are no representatives from our island.
  • The monumental expansion and protection plan of the Hol Chan Marine Reserve, finalized in 2015, was spearheaded by our island’s leadership – Honourable Minister Manuel Heredia, Minister of Tourism and Civil Aviation, and Mayor Daniel Guerrero.
  • The developers use “new jobs” as justification for approval. Any benefit of new construction jobs created by this project is outweighed by the negative impact on EXISTING jobs… jobs that have existed for decades and support numerous island residents.  Thousands of San Pedranos rely on tourism and sport fishing, two industries that are critical to the future viability of our island as a whole.
  • The bulk of the project is being built on public space, over the water.  This reserve is an area for all Belizeans to enjoy and utilize, not for a private company to sell for personal profit.
  • In addition to 54 over-the-water bungalows, the Cayo Rosario plan includes submarine pipes and cables in a trench along our seabed – running over 2kms from the island to Ambergris Caye.  
  • Objection from the community and tourism sector is overwhelming.
  • Objection from the island’s licensed tour guides/Tour Guide Association is unanimous.
  • The developers did not conduct sufficient meaningful consultation with the community on the project.  NEAC cited them for this numerous times.
  • What island consultation did occur was subsequently disregarded by NEAC.  

We invite the board of NEAC, the Department of the Environment, our town council, the developers and all concerned citizens to a meeting at 5:30pm on May 15 at the Lions Den in San Pedro to discuss this project, it’s repercussions and benefits.

This project sets a very dangerous precedent for building and developing over protected sea bed and for dredging and excavating in a marine reserve.  

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