The Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries, Forestry, the Environment, Sustainable Development and Immigration and the Ministry of Natural Resources embarked upon a joint initiative to protect important mangrove ecosystems covering approximately 17,000 acres of national lands remaining on the Turneffe Atoll. The lands have now been set aside for conservation under the ‘Turneffe Land Trust’ signed between the Ministry of Natural Resources and Turneffe Atoll Trust, a registered not-for-profit entity residing on Northern Bogue, Turneffe Atoll. The lands will be held in trust for conservation for and on behalf of the beneficiaries which are the people and Government of Belize. The establishment of this Land Trust carries out a Cabinet decision to protect important mangrove ecosystems situated on Turneffe Atoll, in order to maintain in perpetuity the biological and socio-economic benefits provided by these ecosystems including coastline protection, fish nursery shelter, storm surge attenuation, and carbon sequestration.
The Trust agreement requires Turneffe Atoll Trust to maintain the Trust properties as a nature conservation reserve for the protection of nationally significant species, groups of species, biotic communities and physical features of the environment. The Trustee is required to safeguard for the beneficiaries, safe, healthy, productive, aesthetically and culturally pleasing surroundings and promote the widest range of beneficial uses of biodiversity without depredation, risk to health or safety, in order to provide for sustainable development.
The Turneffe Atoll is the largest atoll in Belize and contributes significantly to the maritime economy of the country. It is a main destination for tourism activities such as fly fishing and is also one of the most productive fishing areas. However, tourism infrastructure development on Turneffe has expanded substantially, which can place pressure on the surrounding ecosystems through nutrient enrichment from effluent and through removal of mangrove cover. With the establishment of this Land Trust, approximately 17,000 acres of Turneffe’s natural ecosystems, which account for a significant portion of the atoll, will now remain in its natural state for perpetuity, and will be incorporated into the National Protected Areas System. This latest measure, coupled with the monitoring of sustainable development practices on Turneffe Atoll with the help of partners such as Turneffe Atoll Trust and Turneffe Atoll Sustainability Association, will help to safeguard this important natural asset for all Belizeans.
The Ministry thanks the Turneffe Atoll Trust and all its partners for their commitment to this endeavour.