Tag Archives: 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. Read More »

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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. Read More »

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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. Read More »

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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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