Marine Protected Areas
The earliest attempts to protect Belize's reefs focused on the
establishment of protected areas. Half Moon Caye Natural Monument, on
Lighthouse Reef, was set up in 1982, followed by Hol Chan Marine Reserve
in 1987, the latter designated as a result of an initiative taken by the
community of San Pedro who saw that some form of management would be
necessary to reconcile the conflict developing between fishermen and
tourist operators, both dependent on the reef for their livelihoods.
Belize now has a remarkable ambitious marine protected area programme
given the size of the country, with a further six sites designated
recently (South Water Caye Marine Reserve, Sapodilla Cayes Marine
Reserve, Bacalar Chico National Park and Marine Reserve, Glovers Reef
Marine Reserve, Blue Hole Natural Monument and Laughing Bird Caye
National Park). Other protected areas are being planned for Caye
Caulker, the Port Honduras area in the south of the country, and for
parts of Turneffe Atoll.
All these sites have, or will have, zoning schemes providing for
recreational activities, small-scale fishing by traditional users, and
total protection of key habitats and species in "no-fishing" zones. The
'no-fishing' zones cover a small area at present but potentially could
play an important role in managing the reef fisheries, by protecting
breeding stocks that may eventually repopulate other depleted areas.
The 'no-fishing' zone at Hol Chan Marine Reserve, with its enormous
groupers and shoals of snapper, illustrates how effective this can be.
This Reef Brief by Sue Wells
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