Oceana in Belize today held discussions with a team from the Placencia Producers Cooperative Society Limited to finalize plans for the donation of Northern II to this southern fishing coop.
“It’s been an arduous process, but we have finally reached agreement in principle with the Placencia Coop to transfer this asset which will allow them to take their Seaweed Project to a new level. We are pleased to be able to make this donation to a worthy and sustainable cause within Belize,” stated Oceana VP Audrey Matura-Shepherd.
The Placencia Coop team included Chairman of the Management Committee Mr. Sydney Lopez Jr, Secretary Mr. Leopold Leslie, Operations Manager Mr. Justino Mendez and Peace Corps Volunteer Ms. Shaz Davison. “Transfer of this vessel could not be timelier as we enter a new phase in our Seaweed Project. We see other benefits accruing to our Members and Belize with the presence of the Northern II at our project site, so we are most appreciative for this donation,” commented Manager Mendez.
Plans are for the transfer of the steel-hulled former trawler Northern II to occur at a brief ceremony at the Placencia Coop Offices in Placencia before May is over. The Coop will pay the princely sum of $1.00 for the vessel, which will serve as an onsite platform for its Seaweed Project about to be expanded from its pilot stage. The vessel will also serve as an educational facility where the Placencia Coop will train both local and regional fishers on the commercial production of seaweed. This project forms part of the Coop’s diversification program, with the seaweed produced marketed both locally and abroad.
62 Bella Vista
3 1/2 Philip S.W.Goldson Highway
P.O. Box 1500
Belize City, Belize C.A.
After waiting almost a year for funding since the project was approved in June 2010, the Placencia Producers Cooperative Society Ltd (PPCSL) has finally established seaweed farms near Little Water and Hatchet Caye. The funding comes from the Community Management of Protected Areas Conservation Programme COMPACT ($90,000BZ) and the project lasts 18 months from its (new) starting date, June 2011. The goal of COMPACT in Belize is to preserve the ecological integrity, biodiversity and character of the Belize Barrier Reef Reserve System - World Heritage Site, by developing and supporting a range of conversation and sustainable livelihood activities through transparent and democratic partnerships with coastal communities and other stakeholders.
The project is fully endorsed by the Belize Fisheries Department, Southern Environmental Association (SEA) and the Placencia Village council and aims to reduce fishing pressure in and around Gladden Spit and the Silk Cayes Marine Reserve by providing what we hope will be a profitable alternative livelihood from traditional commercial species (like lobster & conch).
The year-long delay came about because it was mandated the co-op should lease the sea beds where the farming will occur. After seeking help from Department of Environment (DOE) and Lands we were told government would lease the sea beds to PPCSL for $70,000BZ/year, far out of the range of the project budget. With help from the Fisheries Department and some personal intervention, we now have a research permit for the duration of this project to avoid those costly fees.
The species being farmed is Euchema spp. which was taken from Glover’s Reef Marine Reserve with special permission from the Belize Fisheries Department as a one-time allowance to generate seed stock. Weather was on our side! Tropical Storm Harvey disturbed a large patch (over 100m long and in some places 4m wide) where participants were able to cull from in a refresher cultivation workshop at Glover’s Reef Aug. 23-25, 2011. The original seaweed cultivation workshops were conducted by Alan Smith (deceased) with funding from WWF, UNEP, ICRAN and BFCA in 2005, and the PPCSL has wanted to implement farms since then.
Included in the project are funds to renovate the co-op building for processing and packaging the seaweed, and funds to hire up to three women part-time in recognition of women’s vital role in the co-op in the past. The seaweed will be offered both dried and vacuum-sealed (with a shelf life up to one year), and processed as a ready-to-use gel (which needs to be refrigerated, for shakes, etc).
COMPACT funded a market study conducted in 2009 and Belize only suggested gross profits are possible up to $700,000BZ/year but we hope to glean yield data that will allow us to expand to international markets, where seaweed is used as feed for fish farms and a base in cosmetics and the biotechnology industry.
For more information on the project contact Sydney Lopez, Jr., Chairman of PPCSL, Lisa Carne, Project Coordinator, Kurt Godfrey local seaweed expert, Carlton Young, Sr. (Mr. Jack) and/or the Facebook page entitled “Placencia Seaweed Farmers” which also houses a short video on the project produced Janelle Chanona and funded by the Healthy Reefs for Healthy People Initiative.