Commercial fishermen, mostly from the local fishing community of
Placencia and the surrounding communities of Monkey River, Independence,
and Riversdale, fish the waters surrounding Laughing Bird Caye (in addition
to the rest of the traditional fishing grounds) and in the past have used
the Caye as a camping site for resting and cleaning the catch (such as the fishing camp on the Silk cayes seen at right). Fishermen from Honduras and Guatemala have also used the Caye for similar activities.
Due to the remote nature of the Caye it is impossible to create a statistic
that would reflect the impact of these activities other than the physical
evidence. The local community of Placencia has committed itself to an
informal agreement to not fish within a mile of the caye itself, though it is not a formal law.
Though frustrating, the local guides and fishermen try to abide by this new "tradition". All the cooperatives in the area of the southern Stann Creek District and Northern Toledo District are either closed or have greatly changed their methods of doing business in the last two years. This is due to the factors of overuse of traditional fishing grounds and to market shifts for the product. Many fishermen have changed careers to become very knowledgeable local tour guides.
|TOURISTS WITH LOCAL GUIDES|
Tourists with local guides from Placencia Area (members of the Placencia Tour Guide Association) are carried in small boats (30' or less) with outboard motors, or slightly larger boats (40' or less) with inboard engines. These tours are for sightseeing, snorkeling, SCUBA diving, and picnicking; generally lasting one to six hours.
The basic boat load is based on four people plus a guide. Occasionally there can be from twelve to twenty people on a given boat. Sometimes, these visiting groups will build fires for cooking. The Conservation Branch of the Forestry Department of the Natural Resources has declared that there can be no overnight stays on the Caye. There are no rest rooms facilities or shelter on the Caye.
The primary users of Laughing Bird Caye are the residents of Placencia Village. The locals will visit the island for a day of snorkeling, diving and picnicking. Presently, there is no rest room facility. The number of people using the caye in this capacity is hard to estimate as it is generally seasonally centering around holidays and weekends. Placencia is a popular destination for Belizeans. There is also sporadic traffic from other surrounding communities such as Independence, Seine Bight, and the nearby citrus and banana plantations.
|NON-RESIDENTIAL USE (PRIVATE BOATS AND KAYAKS)|
Private Yachts are a growing segment of users of the Laughing Bird Caye
National Park. Usually it is for day use but occasionally there is an
overnight stay at anchor or on the beach. At present there are no rules or guide lines on the use of various marine resources and protected areas by private yachts.
The kayak companies using the area with local guides, comply with
the local communities wishes regarding fishing in the vicinity of the caye.
These companies by and large do not overnight at the Caye, but use it
as a rest stop before continuing to other caye destinations.
In the past, cruise ship have used the coastal waters off Placencia
between November to April. Laughing Bird Caye National Park was a primary stop
on their tour of the southern waters. The major cruise ship carried up to 70
passengers each voyage, and made a stop at Laughing Bird Caye once a
week during their season.
In January of 1993 the Fisheries Department place a mooring (Halas Style) in the area of Laughing Bird Caye. The cruise ship was able to use the buoy when wind direction and other conditions were correct, otherwise they were forced to use an anchor as in the past.
The cruise ship policy is being reviewed and the impact on the Park environment is being studied to identify ways that the cruise ships can still utilize the Park with minimum impact.
Laughing Bird Caye National Park is one of the gems in a string of pearls that is the Belize Barrier Reef World Heritage Site. Heavy use has impacted the terrestrial habitats and is beginning to impact the undersea environments.
Local community groups and national regulatory authorities are working together to help save and manage the Park. As always, sustainability is a major problem. Other problems related to sustainability include management, research, and enforcement.
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