Craig Hayes, owner/operator of Turneffe Flats Resort, has been named Angler of the Year by Fly Rod & Reel magazine in the publication’s winter issue.
Hayes was cited for his “perseverance that was rewarded in fall 2012 when the Belize government declared Turneffe Atoll a marine reserve, bringing special protection to 325,000 acres that the Oceanic Society has declared as ‘the largest and most biologically diverse coral atoll in the Western Hemisphere’.”
“About the time we moved down to Turneffe, Craig [Matthews] and Yvon
[Chouinard] started 1% for the Planet,” Hayes said. “I have great respect for both of them, and I loved the idea of supporting conservation in your own backyard. At that point, we decided to make a substantial financial contribution (over $300,000 to date) to support those efforts, and we formed Turneffe Atoll Trust to receive our donations and others. Our first big effort (along with Belize River Lodge and El Pescador) was to lobby for catch-and-release sportfishing in Belize. The Trust underwrote the economic study, and legislation was enacted in January, 2009.”
Hayes’s next goal was to gain protection for the atoll. “A poorly managed commercial fishery and large-scale, destructive development both threaten the region’s delicate ecological balance,” Hayes said. “Commercial fishermen frequently keep undersize catch, and fish out of season. There have been several incidences of individuals dredging flats, chopping down mangroves and filling the land with the dredge. Historically, there’s been no one to effectively monitor or enforce such activity.”
After several stalled efforts, Hayes formed the Turneffe Atoll Sustainability Council, bringing all stakeholders together. Over 2-1/2 years, the council wrote a 300-page management plan for developing the atoll in a sustainable manner; the plan took 10,000 man hours, underwritten largely by the Turneffe Atoll Trust. Thanks to the plan, Turneffe Atoll was designated a Marine Reserve by Belize’s Minister of Forestry, Fisheries and Sustainable Development, the Hon. Minister Lisel Alamilla, on September 27, 2012, according to the Fly Rod & Reel article.
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Editor: Fly Rod & Reel
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