In a bold step for the sustainability of its fisheries and the world’s second largest barrier reef, the government of Belize has approved a plan to set aside 10% of its territorial waters as no-take marine protected areas (MPAs), tripling the size of its existing zones.
This major expansion of the MPAs is coupled with the Caribbean nation’s move to adopt a national secure fishing rights program in 2016. It represents the culmination of more than six years of work led by The National Conservation Zone Expansion Steering Committee, which includes the Belize Fisheries Department, Environmental Defense Fund, Wildlife Conservation Society, The Nature Conservancy, Belize Federation of Fishers, Belize Fishermen Cooperatives, Coastal Zone Management Authority and Institute, Belize Forest Department, National Protected Areas Secretariat, Belize Coast Guard, Healthy Reefs Initiative, Association of Protected Areas Management Organizations and Toledo Institute for Development.
“This is a truly remarkable accomplishment that is setting an example for the rest of the world to follow,” said Katie McGinty, Senior Vice President for Oceans at Environmental Defense Fund. “The combination of significant marine protected areas and managed access for fishers will help protect some of the most important ecosystems in the world while ensuring sustainable fishing can continue to provide food, nutrition and livelihoods to the thousands of Belizeans who rely on these valuable natural resources.”
The expansion of marine protected areas will have an impact well beyond fisheries. It is a crucial step for Belize to meet the aspirations of its national development plans and its international commitments under the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals.
“A healthy reef and vibrant fisheries sector is necessary for Belize to achieve its goals for reducing poverty, improving food security and nutrition and increasing investment for development in Belize,” according to Belize Fisheries Administrator, Beverly Wade.
This is an excerpt from an article published on the Ecoclub website