Hol Chan Marine Reserve (HCMR)

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Belize: HCMR is located approximately 4 miles south east of San Pedro Town, Ambergris Caye. It incorporates a total of seven square miles of coral reef, seagrass beds, and mangrove forest. The Marine Reserve has a multi-use scheme and is divided into four zones to allow sustainable use of its resources.

Management authority

Hol Chan Marine Reserve Trust Fund

Demographic Statistics

Two communities neighbor HCMR. To the north is the town of San Pedro (~10,000 inhabitants), and to the south is the village of Caye Caulker (~2,500). In recent years both communities have experience major growth in the tourism industry. San Pedro Town is the fastest growing and one of the most important tourist destinations in Belize. Of the 36,887 visitors to the HCMR in 2001, 70% came from San Pedro.

Objective/Purpose of site

To conserve marine ecosystems (i.e. mangrove, turtle grass beds and coral reefs), which are representative of the reef complex and that function as an ecological entity.

Ecological features and assets

HCMR is located at the northern end of the Belize Barrier reef. The main feature of interest is the Hol Chan 'cut', a natural break on the reef.

Socioeconomic features and assets

Tourism is the main income earning industry on Ambergris Caye.

Major Threats

Background legislation and policy support

In July of 1987 the Hol Chan Marine Reserve was legally established by order of the minister responsible for fisheries. In 1994 these regulations were amended to allow the formation of a Board of Trustees which is responsible to direct and manage the affairs of the Reserve.

Management structure

The Fisheries Department is the principal governmental agency responsible for management of marine resources. The Marine Reserve is managed by a Board of Trustees, which is made up of members from both the public and private sector. The Manager of the Reserve is directly accountable to the Board of Trustees. The Marine Reserve employs three Park Rangers, an administrative assistant, and a Manager. A Peace Corps volunteer assists in the monitoring and education program. The Board of Trustees owns the building which houses the office and visitor's center of the Reserve.


Stakeholder Involvement and participation

HCMR works closely with local tour guide and fishermen associations. Tour guides have played an important part in the success of the no take zone through voluntary compliance and assisting staff in minimizing illegal activities in the area. The San Pedro Tour Guide Association facilitated the process in annexing Shark and Ray Alley as designated reserve Zone. Presently, the San Pedro Tour Guide Association and the local fishermen support a proposed extension of the HCMR.

Financing Mechanism

The bulk of the revenue generated by the Reserve comes from a $2:50 USD user fee paid by each visitor to the Marine Reserve. There is a $3.50 user fee for Zone D. However, HCMR does not have the capacity to collect this fee. Revenue is also generated from a yearly boat registration fee. Funding agencies have also provided financial support to HCMR through grants.

Major successes and failures

The Marine Reserve has achieved some degree of success and has been used as example for the development of other MPAs in Belize and Mexico (Xcalak).

Major Needs