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Dr. Marianne Karlsson shares research on climate change adaptation efforts of two fisher communities

Dr. Marianne Karlsson, Senior Researcher, Nordland Research Institute

The Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre (CCCCC) and the University of the West Indies (UWI) Open Campus in Belize hosted a presentation by Dr. Marianne Karlsson on the results of her PhD thesis “Changing seascapes: local adaptation processes in Belizean fishing communities”, yesterday, March 30.

Belize’s wider vulnerability to climate change constitutes the context for the thesis as adaptation to climate change is considered to be urgent. More specifically, Dr. Karlsson’s research has studied how the coastal communities of Sarteneja and Monkey River perceive and respond to observed environmental changes. Through collaboration with the CCCCC, she visited Belize three times from 2010 to 2012 and stayed for eight months in total. Dr. Karlsson gathered data from interviews, spent time in the villages, participated on two conch fishing trips (one to South Water Caye and one to Glovers Reef) and literature studies.

Photo Credit: Repeating Islands

The thesis analyses what factors have influenced livelihood changes in a historical perspective in Sarteneja and Monkey River, what social consequence coastal erosion has had in Monkey River and how Sartenejan fishermen respond to climatic and non-climatic stressors. The results highlight the role of history and politics, local values and agency in shaping responses to environmental changes such as hurricanes and coastal erosion. Local attachment to the villages and the wish to safeguard or enhance what is seen as a good way of life in these places are central motivations to why people adapt to change. The thesis argues that it is important to consider current strategies to deal with change, local wishes for development and to enable local groups to have a greater say in decisions that affect their lives and livelihoods when considering future climate change adaptation.

The PhD thesis was successfully defended at the Norwegian University of Life Sciences in September 2015. Dr. Karlsson now works as a researcher at a regional institute in Northern Norway, Nordland Research Institute.

Peruse Marianne Karlsson PhD thesis

Dr. Karlsson has also written four additional papers that can be viewed here.

Government of Belize Bans Offshore Exploration in and around all Seven World Heritage Sites

Belize Barrier Reef Reserve System © Tony Rath / Tony Rath

Belize Barrier Reef Reserve System © Tony Rath / Tony Rath

In 1996 the Belize Barrier Reef was designated as World Heritage Site. However, concessions for offshore exploration and navigational errors that cause grounding on the reef had resulted in it being added UNESCO’s (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) list of World Heritage Sites in danger in 2009.
But earlier this week, the Government of Belize has approved a policy that will legally apply a ban on offshore exploration in areas along the Belize Barrier Reef System, and within the seven (7) World Heritage Sites in Belize. During a cabinet meeting on Tuesday, December 1, 2015, the ministers agreed to specifically ban offshore exploration in all 7 World Heritage Sites:

Middle Caye, Glovers Reef Marine Reserve Photo Credit: Jose A. Sanchez

Middle Caye, Glovers Reef Marine Reserve
Photo Credit: Jose A. Sanchez

  1. Bacalar Chico Marine Reserve and National Park
  2. Caye Caulker Marine Reserve and National Park
  3.  Lighthouse Reef Natural Monument
  4.  South Water Caye Marine Reserve
  5. Laughing Bird Caye National Park
  6. Glovers Reef Marine Reserve
  7. Sapodilla Caye Marine Reserve

This effectively results in a total of 448 square miles being banned. In addition, Cabinet agreed to a ban offshore exploration within one kilometer on either side of the Belizean Barrier Reef System, resulting in an additional 868 square miles falling under the offshore exploration ban. The total area covered by the ban is 842,714 acres or 1,316 square miles.

Former programme Specialist, Special Projects Unit at UNESCO World Heritage Centre

Former programme Specialist, Special Projects Unit at UNESCO World Heritage Centre

Former programme Specialist, Special Projects Unit at UNESCO World Heritage Centre Marc Patry told the Communications Specialist at the Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre (CCCCC) “I was very happy to read that the Government of Belize has decided to ban all oil exploration activities within the World Heritage site, and even extending out 1km beyond the boundaries. This is a testament to the strength of the World Heritage Convention.”

Patry who is currently the principal consultant for World Heritage Solutions also says “It’s worth noting that major mining and oil companies are ahead of game on this one – having officially recognized World Heritage sites as “no-go” areas. It surprises me when the private sector is more visionary than some governments on conservation matters! Still, I applaud the tireless efforts of Belizeans who I know have been making a lot of noise over this issue and congratulate the government of Belize for doing something for which Belizeans a hundred years from now will thank them for.”

Cabinet further agreed that areas that fall outside of the large acreages banned, would not automatically allow for seismic activities and exploration drilling without conducting the existing stringent environmental studies to determine critical habitats and sensitive zones. The required environmental studies would then further give guidance to areas outside the ban, to scientifically determine the type and nature of exploration that can occur in these explorable areas. This decision by the Cabinet demonstrates the government’s resolve in ensuring the continued protection of Belize’s Barrier Reef System and its seven World Heritage Sites.

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