Selected tags: Latin America

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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EDF Scientist Participates in Planning UN Report on Biodiversity

Jake Kritzer is a Senior Scientist for EDF's Oceans program.

Hong Kong-based and Chinese-flagged cargo ship Heng Chang going through the canal past the town of Gamboa showing the jungle comes right down to the banks of the canal.In anticipation of the International Year of Biodiversity in 2010, the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) is preparing a major report on the role of biodiversity and ecosystem services in sustaining natural resource-based industries in Latin American and the Caribbean. 

The report will have an economic focus and speak to policymakers, highlighting how a shift from “business as usual” management practices that fail to value and protect biodiversity and ecosystem services ultimately lead to higher costs, declines in long-term employment opportunities, and poorer overall economic performance.  Economic sectors to be covered include agriculture, forestry, tourism and, of course, fisheries.

UNDP recruited EDF to help with the fisheries chapter in the report.  So, I traveled to the small rainforest town of Gamboa in Panama’s Canal Zone to meet with experts from across Latin America and around the world to plan the report.  The setting was somewhat surreal, given that we were surrounded by thick, lush jungle, with an array of colorful tropical birds darting about, and the occasional herd of capybara (the world’s largest rodent) wandering into clearing to graze. All of this while with massive cargo ship slowly traversing the Canal while pushed by powerful tugs. 

Hong Kong-based and Chinese-flagged cargo ship Heng Chang going through the canal past the town of Gamboa showing the jungle comes right down to the banks of the canal.The workshop participants were very interested in hearing about the potential for catch shares to achieve sustainable harvest levels of fish stocks, reduce bycatch and habitat impacts, and create a community of fishermen-stewards who will advocate for habitat protection, improvement of water quality, and other needed ecosystem-based management practices. 

Latin America presents many fisheries management challenges, for fisheries in the region are not only an important source of employment in many countries, but also a major source of protein, particularly in small coastal subsistence fishing communities.  Fortunately, the region can look to several successful examples of catch shares management, including both the large ITQ-managed fisheries in Chile and the smaller coastal fisheries managed by “cooperativas” (cooperatives) or territorial use rights (TURFs) in Mexico, Uruguay and other countries. 

As EDF looks to expand upon its existing Latin American efforts in Mexico, Belize and Cuba, this new partnership with UNDP, guided by the course charted in this report, will open exciting new possibilities.

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