Turneffe is one of the world’s truly special place. It’s healthy reefs, mangroves, lagoons and flats provide the critical but diminishing habitat for the corals, fish, birds and marine reptiles and marine mammals that we all enjoy so much. Turneffe Atoll Trust continues with it’s mission to see that this incredible place is protected and properly managed.
AT has identified the monitoring of development permits at Turneffe Atoll as a top priority. Although governmental and marine reserve regulations are in place to protect Turneffe from destructive development, a “watchdog” organization is vital to seeing that developers meet regulatory requirements and that governmental agencies follow the environmental laws. 2016 has been a busy year for these efforts by TAT.
Before it could be stopped, developers deforested five acres of mangroves and then dredged a swampy area in the middle of the property to fill this low-lying land with mud. Turneffe Atoll Trust sued the developers as well as the Department of Environment, the Fisheries Department and the Department of Environment arguing that several laws and policies of the Marine Reserve had been violated.
As a result of TAT’s efforts, this development has been shut down since February and we are very optimistic about the outcome of the lawsuit. The judge has, in fact, indicated to the governmental agencies that they should try to settle this case as they can’t possibly win. At present, we working to structure a meaningful settlement which would set constructive precedents for future development.
TAT has purchased an option on the Oceanic Society property at the Southern end of Blackbird Caye. This is an important parcel of land which we hope to keep from being improperly developed. This is the initial action of our land trust plan and we hope to ensure that this property is used in a sustainable manner. We feel that the best use for the property would be to have it become a world-class Center for Ecological Restoration and Stewardship that would focus on understanding and maintaining ecosystem services to assure that habitats are protected and to suppot the sustainable uses of Turneffe. This would presumably involve building a coalition of universities.
Earlier this year, TAT formed the Fishermen’s Eco-tourism Alliance (F.E.T.A.). This new organization joins the symbiotic skills and abilities of Turneffe’s commercial fishermen with Turneffe’s eco-tourism sector to jointly advocate for habitat protection at Turneffe. The fishing community and eco-tourism have similar needs to prevent habitat destruction. We are optimistic about the potential of this organization to partner with TAT in the protection of Turneffe.
Finally, we have recently hired Conrad Kramer as the US Executive Director for Turneffe Atoll Trust. Conrad has had a distinguished career in conservation working to protect threatened habitat and species in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem, the Sonoran Desert, and the heartland of the United States. We are very pleased to have Conrad on board and hope that you will have a chance to meet him this coming year. Conrad will focus on increasing awareness of Turneffe’s special and unique attributes and fundraising so that TAT can acquire and perpetually protect key properties on Turneffe – the most definitive way to protect Turneffe. He will work to develop and fund a Center for Ecological Restoration and Stewardship on the Oceanic property and also seek funding for essential research.
Our ability to protect Turneffe from a host of potential threats largely depends upon the support of those who have visited Turneffe, who have come to understand its importance and appreciate its gifts and who wish to see this incredible place protected forever. If you would like to explore how you can make a permanent impact on the long-term protection of Turneffe Atoll please call Conrad at 208-719-6109 or visit our website www.turneffeatoll.org. Turneffe Atoll Trust is a US 501 (C)3 organization and all deductions are tax deductible.