Tropical marine paradise and its rare species protected by funding from the philanthropic Bertarelli Foundation
UK-based marine conservation charity works with Swiss foundations and local stakeholders to secure designation of globally-important reef ecosystem
Belize City – November 22 2012:The Government of Belize has today established a marine reserve that will secure the future for the Turneffe Atoll, the most sizeable unprotected fragment of the largest and most biodiverse coral reef system in the Western Hemisphere.
The declaration of a marine protected area around the Turneffe Atoll has been made possible by funding from the Bertarelli Foundation, the Geneva-based family foundation of Dona, Ernesto and Kirsty Bertarelli, which will also provide part of an endowment fund to ensure Turneffe’s protection into the future.
The Bertarelli Foundation enabled the British government to designate the largest no-take marine reserve in the world in 2010 in the Chagos Archipelago in the Indian Ocean.
The Turneffe deal was brokered by the UK charity, BLUE, and is expected to receive additional financial support from the Oak Foundation, another charity already extensively committed in Belize, as well as other donors.
Plans to create this new marine protected area benefited from the collaboration of many highly respected local organizations including local fishermen.
Speaking at the declaration ceremony held by the Government of Belize, Minister of Forestry, Fisheries and Sustainable Development Lisel Alamilla explained the importance of this announcement in conservation terms:
“Turneffe Atoll is currently the largest unprotected section of the Mesomerican Barrier Reef System (MBRS), the second-largest reef system in the world after Australia’s Great Barrier Reef and home to an array of vulnerable marine wildlife including manatees, turtles, saltwater crocodiles and rare corals.
Under the terms of this agreement, a new multiple-use marine reserve of 1316 sq kms will ensure that conservation priorities are balanced with the sustainable local fishing community, without jeopardising the significant contribution made by coral reef eco-tourism to Belize’s national economy. We hope this collaboration with the Bertarelli Foundation, BLUE and Fauna and Flora International will create a new blueprint that will help other international governments work to conserve their own fragile marine environments.”
Establishing a Turneffe Atoll marine reserve represents the missing link in a chain of marine protected areas that currently extend across 3866 square kms of Belize’s territorial waters. In 1996, seven areas of the MBRS received UNESCO World Heritage Site protected status but Turneffe was excluded as it was not protected at the time.
Commenting on today’s declaration from the Government of Belize, BLUE co-founder George Duffield explained: “The idea of creating a marine protected area for Turneffe has been under discussion for the last 20 years but the inherent complexities of establishing such a reserve have restricted progress until now. With the essential support of the visionary Bertarelli Foundation, who are contributing $5 million, and Oak, an established player in the region, together with our conservation partner, Fauna and Flora International, BLUE has succeeded in marshalling the financial and technical support necessary to enable the Belize government to secure the protection of this priceless marine ecosystem for future generations.”
Charles Clover, BLUE’s chairman, said: “Protecting Turneffe is about more than just the protection of the atoll’s coral reefs, mangroves and rare species from unsympathetic development and overfishing. This deal will enable Belize to get within reach of its target of protecting 20 per cent of the seas within its jurisdiction – which makes it a beacon for marine protection around the world.”
A spokesperson for the Bertarelli Foundation said “After having helped create the Chagos marine reserve two years ago, with this intervention the Bertarelli family want to help protect one of the world's most magical reefs; the Turneffe Atoll and its rare creatures are of huge value and literally world class in their sophisticated ecosystems and the potential they offer for scientific research and wider education”.
Imani Fairweather Morrison, programme officer for Oak Foundation said “A great deal of thought and consultation with stakeholders occurred in the lead up to the decision of the Government, and many local organizations such as the Turneffe Atoll Trust provided tremendous support to the process. It is a true reflection of what can ssssbe achieved collaboratively and Oak Foundation is pleased to be involved. We will continue to work with partners to bring new funding and talent to address marine issues globally.”
Fauna & Flora International (FFI) (www.fauna-flora.org)
FFI protects threatened species and ecosystems worldwide, choosing solutions that are sustainable, based on sound science and take account of human needs. Operating in more than 40 countries worldwide – mainly in the developing world – FFI saves species from extinction and habitats from destruction, while improving the livelihoods of local people. Founded in 1903, FFI is the world’s longest established international conservation body and a registered charity.
About the Oak Foundation http://www.oakfnd.org/
Oak Foundation commits its resources to address issues of global, social and environmental concern, particularly those that have a major impact on the lives of the disadvantaged.
Oak Foundation is a group of philanthropic organisations which, since its establishment in 1998, has given more than 2,400 grants to not-for-profit organisations around the world. Oak has its headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland and has a presence in eight other countries: Belize, Bulgaria, Denmark, Ethiopia, India, the UK, the US and Zimbabwe.
Link to website here