© 2012 Margaret Sands

Island Time

Our first glimpse of Tobacco Caye, our new island home.

Anna Lui, Anja Mondragon, and I arrived on Tobacco Caye in Belize on Friday, not even a week ago, but we’ve already fully immersed ourselves in island time and life.  We’re struggling to cope with new challenges, like having to count every available bandwidth before checking your email or trying to write a blog, and warmly welcoming new experiences, like diving for lobster and grilling our spoils over smoldering coconut husks.  Mostly we’ve been trying to orient ourselves to the island and its people, but already we’ve had some epiphanies about our projects and the direction we’d like to take them.

Anja and Anna are working on a community development project trying to assess the needs of the island which is a much smaller community than any we’ve encountered before, this small size brings its own problems.  Another issue for the islanders is the recent implementation of a no take zone surrounding the island in the historic fishing grounds of the Tobacco Caye residents.  Now the fishermen and lobster and conch divers are supposed to go a half mile off shore to the reef drop off before they are allowed to harvest.  This has caused some contention between the community and conservation efforts trying to preserve the Belize barrier reef and its marine life. 

I intend to interview the fishermen as well as reserve managers, Belize Fisheries authorities, and others involved in the drafting of the reserve to try to uncover sources of conflict and suggest possible solutions.  Already there are clear and understandable discrepancies between the mission (and restrictions) of the reserve and the attitudes and actions of the islanders.  It seems to me that until the locals are sufficiently included and represented in the management of their reserve, their behavior will be at odds with the preservation of the valuable ecosystem they depend on.

Not a bad place to spend the summer.

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    Posted June 26, 2012 at 4:44 pm | #

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