Selected tags: Belize

Community-based fishery management delivers individual and collective benefits in Belize

DSC_0088Recently, I traveled to Belize to see how TURF-reserves (territorial use rights for fishing co-located with no-take zones) are performing and learn about plans to expand them nationwide. The Mesoamerican Reef, the largest in the Atlantic Ocean, spans the Belizean coastline and is rich in biodiversity and a crucial source of income for thousands of fishers. Coastal fisheries, however, are at risk due to overfishing, and other pressures such as coastal development and climate change.

In Belize, fishers have seen a decline in their catch, and the Belize Fisheries Department is using TURF-reserves to provide fishers the right incentives to become better stewards of their resources.  As fishers take better care of their fishing area they will realize benefits and secure them for future generations.  This approach to fisheries management is known as “Managed Access.”  In 2008 the Belize Fisheries Department began working with EDF, Wildlife Conservation Society, the Toledo Institute for Development and Environment (TIDE), and other Belizean institutions to deploy two Managed Access pilot projects.

Motivated by the success of the projects, the Belizean government is committed to expanding Managed Access to nearly half its fishing grounds, setting the country on a course to comprehensively rebuild and conserve its fisheries and precious biodiversity.

DSC_0074While in Belize, I saw fishermen, government managers, and environmental organizations working side by side to achieve this goal. Park Ranger Edwin Cabrera gave me a personal tour of one of the pilot sites, the Port Honduras Marine Reserve.  Edwin works for TIDE, the local organization that co-manages the reserve with the Belize Fisheries Department. He was preparing to head out to the Port Honduras guardhouse, where he’ll spend two weeks on patrol.   Enforcement is critical to the success of Managed Access because it ensures that only those who have licenses to fish in the area are fishing, that they’re following the rules inside the TURF, and that no one is fishing in the no-take zones. Edwin and I talked a lot about how the TURF is working, what his job involves, and what kind of challenges the rangers are facing. The rangers are a dedicated group; they work under difficult conditions and have to cover an expansive body of water. Under the TURF, fishermen work closely with Edwin to protect an area they are extremely invested in.

DSC_0129Compliance with regulations has increased dramatically.  Fishers themselves are now turning in offenders, signaling growing support for TURFs. Edwin is encouraged by the improvements he has seen in management and conservation of the area in the past three years. Approximately 70% of fishers fishing in the TURFs report that they are catching more fish than they were before Managed Access, resulting from the changes they’ve made as they become stewards of their marine resources.

The Fish Forever partnership is partnering with the Belizean government to expand upon the success at PHMR and Glover’s Reef Marine Reserve. Fish Forever is a partnership of EDF, Rare, and UCSB to reform small-scale fisheries in the developing tropics through the creation of TURF-reserves in five countries and will help to accelerate adoption of new TURF-reserves in Belize.  Expanding and implementing Managed Access isn’t easy. Accustomed to an open access fishery, transitioning to TURF-reserves can be difficult for both fishers and managers. This is why it’s very important to have open and honest conversations with fishers – the primary users and beneficiaries of local fisheries.  The Belize Fisheries Department, Rare, and EDF held a series of workshops throughout the country while I was there to talk to fishers about how to best support them as they make the change to Managed Access.

For example, one requirement of managed access in Belize is that all license holders must report all their catch. The fishers we met with see the benefit – knowing more about what you catch means that you can manage it better – but that doesn’t mean that filling out logbooks is easy. It takes a lot of time, you may have to travel far to drop them off, some fishers can’t read or write and there are multiple local names for lots of fish in different regions. Most importantly, fishers fear that this information could be used against them. We talked through these difficulties and then proposed ways to resolve them – such as have someone collecting data at a landing site, holding trainings on filling out logbooks, providing forms in both English and Spanish, using drawings and diagrams on the sheets, and hosting scientists to present on data and communicate how exactly it will be used. This type of conversation ensures that as managed access is implemented, fishers are part of the process and are given the opportunity to provide input and advice on the best way to manage marine resources.

DSC_0036I came away impressed by the progress underway in Belize.  This success is spreading by word of mouth and new groups of Belizean fishers are looking to implement TURFs in their own fishing grounds.  They are motivated and excited to participate in the joint effort to protect their future livelihoods.  Managed Access has its challenges, rendering advance engagement and coordination with fishers essential to gaining their support.  Next time I’m in Belize, I’m confident that Managed Access will have spread its roots across the country, that fishers are seeing consistent increases in their catch and income and that they see a secure future for themselves and future generations.

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How a growing partnership is reducing overfishing in Belize and beyond

fisherman takes meat out of a conch shell

Gumercindo Cano, a Managed Access fisherman, takes the meat out of a conch shell
Photo credit: Heather Paffe

Fishing in the developing tropics looks very different from fishing in the United States. It’s easy to forget that millions of people around the world rely on wild fish for their daily protein and survival, rather than being able to purchase it from a grocery store. This is the case in the countries where EDF will work in partnership with Rare and University of California Santa Barbara (UCSB) on our ‘Fish Forever’ project. Fish Forever will focus on work with communities in the developing tropics to reduce overfishing and implement new guidelines that will allow fisheries to recover and more consistently provide the nutrition that so many depend upon.  Part of that work will establish territorial user rights in fisheries (TURFs – called Managed Access in Belize), coupled with no-take reserves (replenishment zones/Marine Protected Areas) to advance sustainable fisheries, empower fishermen and bring those solutions to scale.

I recently returned from a governance committee trip to Belize with our partners, Brett Jenks, President of Rare, and Steve Gaines, Dean of UCSB's Bren School of Environmental Science and Management and principal investigator for the Sustainable Fisheries Group. This trip was a vital way to connect with the community and government on the ground in Belize and understand the skills that each member of the partnership brings to the table.

The partnership provides an opportunity for EDF, Rare, UCSB and local partners to improve fisheries science and knowledge by using data-poor stock assessments to effectively design TURF-Reserves and use social marketing techniques to inspire the necessary behavior changes for sustainable fisheries management.

During this particular trip, we went to Port Honduras Marine Reserve, which already has a Managed Access system, and Hol Chan Marine Reserve, where the Government of Belize and partners in the Fish Forever initiative have already begun the process of engaging communities for the implementation of Managed Access.  By visiting these sites, we saw how important it is to link Managed Access with Replenishment Zones.  Fishermen in Managed Access areas will protect the replenishment zone because they benefit from the spillover effect of more fish.  The partnership will be coordinating with the Government, The Nature Conservancy, and Wildlife Conservation Society – the three organizations in Belize leading the initiative to expand replenishment zones.

EDF has worked with Belizean fishermen for the past five years to establish managed access pilot sites that are being used as a model for the national expansion. Our success on the ground is a result of hard work and relationship building. We have led several workshops that brought government officials, fishing cooperative leaders, NGO managers, conservationists and scientists together. We are excited to expand on our 5 years of work in Belize by bringing in additional partners that will add valuable skills and expertise to our existing partnerships on the ground to find common solutions for similar fishing nations.

During the trip I saw strong support from Government and the close working relationships with local partners.  I am excited to see the coalition partners planning further engagement with communities and developing a strategy for generating support for TURF reserves across the country. The project will operate in several developing tropic countries, and we hope that Belize will be a model for working successfully with fishermen and local governments to establish sustainable fishery solutions.

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ICCB: Capacity, Constituency & Conservation: An integrated approach to protect near-shore fisheries for people & biodiversity

Sarteneja sailboat

Sarteneja sailboat, Belize.
Photo Credit: Larry Epstein

EDF staff participated in panel earlier this week at the 26th International Congress for Conservation Biology, spotlighting our new partnership and initiative, Fish Forever, designed to improve fisheries management in developing tropic nations.  Organized by the Society for Conservation Biology, the Congress brings together students and conservation professionals from around the globe to discuss conservation challenges. Through symposia, workshops, printed materials and focus groups, the Congress provides an excellent opportunity to network and present new research and examine developments in conservation science and practice.

The panel, titled “Capacity, Constituency and Conservation: An integrated approach to protect near-shore fisheries for people and biodiversity,” allowed the Fish Forever partners – EDF, Rare and the Sustainable Fisheries Group at the University of California Santa Barbara (UCSB ) – to outline numerous aspects of the project.

Fish Forever will work with communities in the developing tropics to reduce overfishing and implement new guidelines that will allow fisheries to recover and more consistently provide the nutrition that so many depend upon.  Part of that work will establish territorial user rights in fisheries (TURFs), coupled with no-take reserves to advance sustainable fisheries and then bring those solutions to scale.

The panel addressed different aspects of effective TURF-reserve design and implementation. Dawn Dougherty of UCSB explained how even data-poor stock assessment models provide value and can be used in countries where Fish Forever will be working. Many small-scale fisheries have little data to estimate the health of fish stocks, but tools are available that can make the most of whatever data are at hand to make management decisions.   Jake Kritzer of EDF then described how marine reserves can be integrated into harvest control rules to improve management and more effectively achieve conservation and fisheries goals. Reserves can act as an assessment tool and serve as a buffer against risks of overfishing.

Next, Eleanor Carter of Rare gave an overview and cited case studies of “pride campaigns”, Rare’s framework for effecting environmental change and Dr. Stacey Sowards of the University of Texas – El Paso outlined the communications theory behind the pride campaign strategy.  Pride campaigns use social marketing techniques to increase knowledge, change attitudes and foster engagement with communities to achieve behavior change that improves conservation outcomes.

EDF’s Larry Epstein detailed the development and performance of TURF-reserves in Belize, where over capacity has resulted in nationwide catch reductions.  We worked with the government to develop a TURF-reserves policy to restore fisheries and improve livelihoods.   Currently, there are two TURF-Reserves pilot sites and we have seen positive results in terms of catch reporting and regulatory compliance in a very short period of time.  To gain access to the TURF, fishermen in Belize must report data on the fishery and their catch and comply with fisheries management regulations, creating the appropriate incentives for science and stewardship.   Given the success of TURF-Reserves, government, industry officials and fishermen in Belize are looking at scaling up TURF-Reserves to manage 40% of Belize’s fished waters by 2015. 

The Fish Forever partnership provides an opportunity for EDF, Rare, UCSB and local partners to improve fisheries science and knowledge by using data-poor stock assessments to effectively design TURF-Reserves and use social marketing techniques to inspire the necessary behavior changes for sustainable fisheries management.  We are excited to take lessons learned in Belize and leverage collective expertise and experience to deploy successful fisheries solutions in other countries in the tropics.

 

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Belize Inaugurates New Managed Access Program to Prevent and End Overfishing

On July 1, the Government of Belize inaugurated a managed access program for its marine reserves in order to prevent and end overfishing of important commercial species that are key to Belize’s marine environment and coastal economy.  This Managed Access system is a major win for the conservation of Belize’s magnificent barrier reef as well as for the livelihoods of fishermen and Belize’s food security.

Minister of Fisheries and Agriculture Hon. Rene Montero inaugurated Belize’s managed access program to an audience of 60 fishermen, conservation NGOs, and government agencies.

Minister of Fisheries and Agriculture, Hon. Rene Montero, inaugurated Belize’s managed access program to an audience of 60 fishermen, conservation NGOs, and government agencies.

Managed Access is a major shift in the paradigm from open access fisheries to a limited access area-based system.  EDF has worked with a network of Belizean partners for over three years to achieve this milestone. Belize’s Fisheries Administrator, Beverly Wade, summed up perfectly the significance of this new program, “[The Managed Access program] is not only to allow traditional fishers to have greater participation in the management of the resources, but to also allow them to derive greater benefits from those resources.”  Read More »

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Cabinet of Belize Approves Catch Shares in Belize's Network of Marine Protected Areas

Catch shares team in Belize from Environmental Defense Fund, Wildlife Conservation Society, and Belize Fisheries Department.

Catch shares team in Belize from Environmental Defense Fund, Wildlife Conservation Society, and Belize Fisheries Department.

"Fish Forever" – the motto of Belize's fishermen.  Last week the Government of Belize in partnership with Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) took a major step towards fulfilling that vision with a vote by Belize's cabinet to authorize the implementation of catch shares in its network of marine protected areas. 

"Belize's decision will protect the country’s magnificent Mesoamerican Reef and promote the vitality of its fishing industry,” said Larry Epstein, Mesoamerican Reef Program Manager for EDF, "This substantially adds to the growing list of successful conservation measures Belize is using to preserve its oceans for future generations.”

As a first step, the Belize Fisheries Department will implement their design for TURFs and catch limits for spiny lobster in 2011 and 2012 in Glover's Reef and Port Honduras Marine Reserves.  Belize has already taken the first steps for allocating access to TURFs, creating a monitoring regime, and creating committees of fishermen to participate in the implementation and management of catch shares.

"Catch shares will assist in enforcing marine laws and ensure that fishermen are part and parcel of the enforcement, and respected as custodians because it will be part of their livelihoods that they will be protecting."

- Hon. Rene Montero, Belize Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Cooperatives

In 2009 EDF created a partnership between the Government of Belize Fisheries Department, Wildlife Conservation Society, and the leading Belizean conservation NGO – the Toledo Institute for Development and Environment (TIDE).  Our coalition achieved this milestone in Belize through an education campaign that engaged fishermen, policy makers, elected officials, and government managers of marine reserves.  EDF's team of economists, scientists, and catch shares experts built Belize's technical capacity for catch shares and helped develop the catch share design – including Rod Fujita, Kate Bonzon, Laura Rodriguez, Jake Kritzer, Doug Rader, Tom Lalley, and Tesia Love.   The Government of Belize has stated a vision for catch shares in all marine reserves, and for the commercial lobster fishery. 

Monkey River, Belize Fishing Boats

Monkey River Fishing Boats in Belize

Fishermen in Belize understand first-hand and have been advocating catch shares since EDF, WCS, and TIDE began working in their communities.  According to one fisherman from Placencia, a fishing community in southern Belize, “Every year for the past ten years we have had a decline in lobster production.  That is due to, I think, to overfishing and a general decline in product itself.”  Now Belize and its fishermen have a tool at their disposal that protects its oceans, while at the same time supporting the livelihoods and food security for the people that depend on its resources.

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Innovative Fisheries Management Tools Can Help Further Protect Glover's Reef and Other Areas in Belize

Conch diver in Belize

Conch diver in Belize.

Erik Olsen presents a balanced perspective on management and conditions a Glover's Reef Marine Reserve in Belize in "Protected Reef Offers Model for Conservation" (New York Times, Science, April 27, 2010) and "On Patrol with the Reef Ranger" (New York Times, Green Blog, April 27, 2010).  The Government of Belize has worked well with NGOs and fishermen to establish and maintain this reserve, no easy task when resources are limited.  The abundant sea life and recovering sharks and rays are evidence of excellent performance at this site.

But, Glover's Reef and other areas in Belize are under increasing pressure from overfishing.  Indicators of this include an unsustainable increase in the number of fishermen, the decline in catch of targeted high-value species such as lobster and grouper, and an increase in the catching of parrotfish – a species critical for maintaining the health of the reef.  The question for managers, conservationists, and fishermen is how to integrate sustainable fisheries management with the marine reserve to prevent and even reverse overfishing in the reserves.

Community meeting of fishermen in Belize.

Community meeting of fishermen in Belize.

In response to the threat of overfishing, Environmental Defense Fund, Wildlife Conservation Society, Belize Fisheries Department and Belizean fishermen communities have partnered on an initiative to protect and restore fisheries at Glover's Reef and elsewhere in Belize through the implementation of innovative, incentive-based tools for fisheries management. 

One of the major causes of overfishing at Glover's Reef is that it is an open access fishery.  While this creates an opportunity for all to catch fish, it is also encouraging fishermen to catch too much fish too quickly.  As fish populations get depleted, the health of the reef suffers and fishermen livelihoods become vulnerable.  To solve this problem fishermen must either agree to end the competition and cooperate to sustainably harvest fish (cooperative fishing); or incentives can be put into place to encourage such behavior by empowering fishermen with secure shares of the catch or access to fishing grounds (catch share management). 

This initiative builds on the science and management work already underway at Glover's Reef – the catch data collection that is critical to the implementation of a catch share program, and monitoring the overall ecosystem health of the atoll.  Cooperative fishing and catch shares will also enable local community groups to play a more central role in the management of their fisheries, including implementing the enforcement and monitoring necessary for sustainable management.

Glover's Reef is a jewel, and a critical space for the livelihoods of fishermen and health of Belize's Barrier Reef and the Mesoamerican marine ecosystem.  Linking good fisheries management with MPAs is a critical step to ensure that current and future generations enjoy and benefit from its resources.

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Belizean Fishermen and Fishery Managers Visit British Columbia to See Catch Shares at Work

Fishermen exchange delegation viewing catch reports in Vancouver, BC.Several times a year, EDF takes a delegation of fishermen, policy makers and other leaders in the ocean conservation community and fisheries industry to British Columbia to see, first hand, an effective catch shares program at work. Last week, Larry Epstein, Ayelet Hines, Michael Clayton, and Nicanor Requena of the EDF Oceans program hosted a delegation of fisheries stakeholders from Belize on an international exchange to visit the B.C. groundfish fishery.

The delegation included Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries, and Cooperatives Rene Montero; Minister of Human Development and Social Transformation Peter Eden Martinez; Fisheries Administrator Beverly Wade; and Coastal Zone Management Authority Chief Executive Officer Vincent Gillett.  Fishermen leaders of cooperatives and associations, and representatives of Belizean conservation NGOs also participated in the exchange.

Fishermen (from Belize) exchange viewing catch shares management in Vancouver, BC.Some of the fisheries managed by catch shares in the B.C. groundfish fishery have increased in value ten-fold as a result of healthier and improved fish stocks and habitat. During the conversations among B.C. and Belizean government managers, fishermen, and conservationists, the delegation learned how the B.C. catch share evolved and discussed lessons learned. In addition, the delegation visited the catch shares monitoring facility and observed the process of assessing and recording the catch at a dockside offload site.

Sparking significant enthusiasm for catch shares, the exchange furthered conversations around a range of opportunities for EDF and its partners to engage the Belizean government and fishermen in the implementation of the Mesoamerican Reef Sustainable Fisheries Initiative in Belize. The initiative seeks to implement the use of catch shares in Belize as part of a larger ecosystem-based fishery management strategy.

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