Caye Caulker is a growing village located on the island (Cayo Hicaco in Spanish). It was settled in the 1850s initially by refugees from the Guerra de las Castas (Caste Wars) of the Yucatan. Since then has been the rise of Fisheries, and later, Tourism, as leading industries. Caye Caulker has become a microcosm for the entire country of Belize—having the highest human diversity in the smallest population in the country—about 1500 islanders. Now Caye Caulker boasts residents of all Belize’s ethnicity origins, in addition to those from Europe, North America and Asia. Most businesses are Belizean-owned and are small and friendly rather than large and impersonal. Religions include Roman Catholic, Assemblea de Dios and Jehovah’s Witness. Most growth of the village has taken place within the last 20 years. The community is relaxed and united in many ways and most people support our Marine and Forest Reserves, recognizing the essential reasons why they were formed and need to be maintained.
Important issues include the tendency to overdevelop, domestic pollution (a problem for all inhabited islands), and recently-raised concerns about offshore oil drilling. The latter has the power to greatly impact fragile and endangered reef systems with killing cloaks of toxic hydrocarbon waste.
Guides and Fishers understand that the Reef is the source of their income. Most people on Caye Caulker, old or young, also realize that the Reef is the community’s protection from storm surf. Though storm surges and waves have impacted Caye Caulker, the Barrier Reef has kept the most dramatic and destructive wave energy off the island. And tourists flock to the island to see our magnificent reefs and other exciting attractions, including the recently-marked Woodrail Trail of the Caye Caulker Forest Reserve (CCFR).
Future work includes building improved capacity for control of destructive behavior on the Reserves. This will be achieved through appeals for cooperation with Fisheries and Forest Departments in our grantwriting. Of essential importance is funding for Rangers: at first one for CCFR and one to augment Fisheries Staff at the Caye Caulker Marine Reserve (CCMR), and funding for fuel and research time. Sometimes foul weather precludes essential field monitoring and research work. FAMRACC’s proposed Community Technicians will help reduce this problem while contributing to a student or a guide’s competence, and providing a small stipend.