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Development of Blackadore Caye, Belize, Would Damage Flats Fisheries and Set Dangerous Precedent

Angler fights a bonefish off Blackadore Caye. Photo by Kevin Barker.

Blackadore Caye in Belize is under serious threat from development. Please read BTT’s statement below and write the Belize Department of the Environment directly at envirodept@environment.gov.bz to voice your opinion. Please write before August 31, as the National Environmental Appraisal Committee meets on August 31 to evaluate the proposal.

The flats fishery of Belize is world-renowned because of the diversity of the species that can be caught, including bonefish, tarpon, permit, snook and barracuda. Sport fishermen from around the world travel to Belize to fish the flats, providing an annual economic impact of more than $100 million Belize dollars. But the flats fishery is only as healthy as the flats habitats.

A development project proposed by developer Delos and actor Leonardo DiCaprio will have negative impacts on the flats near Ambergris Caye, and would set a dangerous precedent that would threaten the flats habitats throughout Belize. This proposed project, Blackadore Caye Restorative Island Project, would construct extensive piers on the flats with over-water houses and hotels on them. Not only would this fragment the flats habitat, but it is also in violation of the rules governing the Hol Chan Marine Reserve in which Blackadore is located. 

BTT has strongly opposed the project since its inception, particularly the overwater structures. The proposed structures that would be part of the development would replace flats habitats with habitats that are not used by the flats species. Instead of having large, continuous flats around Blackadore, the flats habitat would be broken up by the new structures. This type of habitat change is called ‘fragmentation’, which has been shown by many legitimate scientific studies to have extensive negative impacts on many fish species. Further, the developers are proposing dredging the flats to provide sand to create beaches, which would also be detrimental to the flats.  Since BTT research has shown that bonefish have small home ranges, the loss and destruction of flats habitats around Blackadore Caye will certainly impact the local bonefish population. Allowing this to occur inside a protected marine reserve would also set a dangerous precedent for the rest of Belize.

The flats fishery of Belize is not only economically important, it’s also culturally important. The job of ‘flats fishing guide’ is frequently passed down through families for generations, and many of the lodges that host anglers are family-owned and operated. The flats fishery was deemed so important to the future of Belize that the legislature designated bonefish, tarpon, and permit ‘catch and release only’ to ensure the fishery stays healthy. Since bonefish, tarpon, and permit have high survival after being released, this is a sustainable fishery—as long as the flats habitats are protected.

BTT has been working with the fishing guides and lodges of Belize for 15 years, and will continue to help them protect their fishery for the future. This is why BTT has joined with El Pescador Lodge and the flats fishing guides to oppose the proposed development plans for Blackadore Caye. We hope you will stand with us.

Write the Belize Department of the Environment directly at envirodept@environment.gov.bz to voice your opinion. You must write before August 31, as the National Environmental Appraisal Committee meets on August 31 to evaluate the proposal.