Bacalar CHico Marine Reserve
The Bacalar Chico National Park and Marine Reserve (BCNPMR) was designated under the National Parks System Act in 1996. Following a decade of advocacy, in that same year, the Belize Barrier Reef System was inscribed as a United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) World Heritage Site: one of less than 1,000 worldwide. BCNPMR was included as one of the seven sites within this designation which recognized the Belize Barrier Reef System as the largest barrier reef in the Northern hemisphere, representing fringing, barrier and atoll reef types.
As a mixed terrestrial and marine reserve the 28,169 acre area is co-managed by the Fisheries Department and Forestry Department under Belize’s Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries, Forestry, The Environment and Sustainable Development. The management objectives are:
- To ensure the health of the fishery stock
- To regulate water sports
- To conduct monitoring and assist in research
- To provide job opportunities to tour guides and a venue for recreational activities
- To prohibit illegal fishing and deter other illegal activities which may be detrimental to the health of the flora and fauna.
In 2003 under the Meso-American Barrier Reef Systems project a multipurpose center was built at San Juan housing an informative visitor center, equipment storage and ranger accommodations in an effort to improve protected area management and strengthen public education and awareness programs about the unique area.
In 2014 the low impact Ecological and Educational Center facilities were completed to accommodate researchers, students, educational groups and overnight visitors wishing to engage in activities compatible with the resource management/protection goals of the reserves.
BCNPMR occupies the northern end of Ambergris Caye, reaching from Chetumal Bay in the west to the Caribbean Sea in the east, and encompasses over 28,000 acres. It has a 12, 640 acre terrestrial portion, which includes the Bacalar Lagoon, also called the Laguna de Cantena. The adjacent 15,529 acre marine reserve portion is part of the Belize Barrier Reef.
The location and boundaries of Bacalar Chico National Park and Marine Reserve is comprised of five management zones (National Park and four Marine Reserve Zones) of the protected area.