Why Belize?

280km
of barrier reef — the longest in the Western Hemisphere1
$10.7
million

in revenue earned from 590,000 kg of wild lobster, conch and other seafood exported each year2
$395-$559 million
estimated value of Belize’s reef resources, including fisheries, tourism and shoreline protection3
15,000
Belizeans depend on fishing for their livelihoods4
Nearly 100%
of fishers are nearshore fishers, using pangas, small motorcraft or sailboats5

In the Belizean waters, along the Mesoamerican Reef, a dazzling array of corals, mangroves and reef species protect coasts from storms and provide people with sustenance. However, Belizean fisheries are are at risk of decline due to open access and the threat of overfishing, jeopardizing the livelihoods of many Belizeans who are greatly reliant on fishing for food and income.

With government backing, Belize offers a timely opportunity to realize the promise of Fish Forever and reverse these exploitative trends.

Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) began working in Belize in 2008, and has helped build and launch two managed access programs6 in heavily fished marine protected areas — Port Honduras and Glovers Reef. Following the success of these programs, the Belizean government publicly committed to expanding them nationwide to cover the country’s entire marine protected area network by 2015.

The Fish Forever partners will build on EDF’s efforts to support this important work.

Successes to date:

  • Since 2009, EDF and partners have talked with 800 fishermen about the principles of rights-based management.
  • Seventy percent of Belizean fishers in the managed access sites report catching more fish, and 80 percent report increased compliance with, and enforcement of, fishing regulations.
  • More than 200 fishers are now licensed through the new management program.
  • Nearly all fishers in the program areas report that they are satisfied with the managed access system and are increasingly calling for expansion.
  • A national public education campaign — featuring radio ads, interviews, murals and high-profile national celebrations such as the annual lobster festival — is raising awareness of managed access as a way to help fisheries recover.
  • The University of California, Santa Barbara led a meeting with Belize’s Fisheries Department, EDF and Rare to begin developing an adaptive management framework for sustainable fish recovery.

In Belize, the Fish Forever partners are working to achieve the following results in the first five years of the program:

  • Expand Managed Access, Belize’s secure access fisheries system, to include Belize’s entire marine reserve network as well as its most important commercial fisheries. Such a nationwide program would be a first for a developing country.
  • Train Belize’s Fisheries Department staff to implement this nationwide managed access system.
  • Give fishers the ability to determine who is eligible to fish through a system of locally managed committees.
  • Support the Belize Fisheries Department’s national marketing campaign and establish a “branded” managed access system across the country.

Show 6 footnotes

  1. WRI, “Coastal Capital: Belize. The Economic Contribution of Belize’s Coral Reefs and Mangroves,” Washington, DC, 2009, 1.
  2. Fisheries Department, Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries, Belize, verified by Larry Epstein (EDF), e-mail message, February 4, 2014.
  3. WRI, “Coastal Capital: Belize. The Economic Contribution of Belize’s Coral Reefs and Mangroves,” Washington, DC, 2009, v.
  4. Larry Epstein (EDF employee), e-mail message, February 3, 2014. Data provided by the Government of Belize.
  5. Larry Epstein (EDF employee), e-mail message, February 3, 2014.
  6. Known locally as a “managed access” program, this system adheres closely to that of Fish Forever, which combines exclusive access areas with fish recovery zones.