Managed Access: A Rights - Based Approach

In Belize fisheries contributes to domestic food security, livelihoods, economic development and is an important part of the tourism product of Belize. Additionally, Fisheries ranks 4th in income earnings and contributes 3% to the country’s GDP (2016). Belize is committed to ensuring the sustainability of its small-scale fisheries and has implemented a model for small-scale fisheries management based on three main pillars.

First, Belize’s laws provide for protection of critical marine habitats and associated fish species. The Government of Belize has over the years established a coastal network of nine (9) marine reserves, three (3) marine national parks, two (2) natural monuments, twelve (12) fish spawning aggregations sites and two (2) marine wildlife sanctuaries that in total cover some 4,051 km˛ (or 21.6 % of our territorial seas). Of these protected areas, some 619 km˛ (3% of our territorial seas) are designated as Replenishment zones or No-take areas.

The second pillar is developing an international scientific partnership to use a fisheries data-limited approach for setting harvest control rules on catches that will prevent and reverse overfishing. We are now employing this system for our Queen Conch fishery, to ensure we are meeting our obligations to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild fauna and Flora.

The last pillar of Belize’s fisheries management model is a fully implemented national system of marine tenure and zoning that Belize calls Managed Access. This management tool allocates fishing rights for Belize’s 3,000 traditional fishers and provides incentives for fishers to protect their fishing areas. The Managed Access system is unique – as it is a multispecies system of fishing rights that covers the entire territorial waters of Belize, which no other country in the world has achieved thus far. The following excerpt highlights additional details on the Managed Access Program and the approach the Belize Fisheries Department took to manage the small-scale fisheries in Belize.

As readers may or may not know, for many years Belize’s fisheries were considered an open access fishery and the threat of resource depletion was clearly indicated by fishermen whose catch was constantly declining. Moreover, as an open access fishery, there was still a risk of overfishing that threatened fishermen livelihoods, exports and the industry due to uncontrolled growth in the number of fishermen. July of 2011 marked a turning point in the history of fisheries management in Belize, as the Belize Fisheries Department (BFD) in partnership with Toledo Institute for Development and Environment (TIDE), Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) and Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) pioneered at two of its marine reserves the implementation of a rights-based approach to fisheries management called Managed Access.

The program was designed to empower traditional fishers by ensuring greater participation in the decision-making process which impacts their livelihood, and by improving the benefits to be derived from the fish stocks in terms of increased fish landings, reduction in fishing effort, larger size classes and increased prices and revenues. In addition, in the long term, there will be benefits accrued to the ecosystem which will contribute to the maintenance of the overall health and sustainability of the Belize Barrier Reef complex. Key to the success of this program are several components which include, but are not limited to: improvements in the licensing/registry system and process; a good monitoring and fishery dependent catch data collection program; a dedicated presence of enforcement personnel and use of new enforcement technologies; and most importantly, the greater active involvement of fishers themselves in the program via fishing area based committees. All of which, coupled with an extensive social marketing campaign and consultation process has yielded significant success and benefits for the resource as well as the stakeholders.

Fisheries and Aquaculture: Outlook and Opportunities

Belize offers an ideal marine environment that has bolstered continued growth and diversification in the fisheries and aquaculture industry. Belize’s unique geographical location and close proximity to major market destinations, offers a multitude of key advantages for investment. Being located only 2 hours away from the US and other key Central American and Caribbean markets has enabled the industry to supply fresh products on a weekly basis. This continues to provide many benefits to the industry’s continued development allowing Fisheries to rank 4th in income earnings contributing up to 3% to Belize’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in 2016.

The Fisheries and Aquaculture industry in Belize also benefits from ideal climatic conditions with mean monthly maxima air temperatures ranging from 33° C / 91° F in the summer to 28° C / 82° F in the winter, and mean monthly minima temperatures ranging from 16° C / 61° F in the winter to 24° C / 75° F in the summer. Warm sea water temperatures off the coast also open the doors for many investment opportunities in the industry with Belize being sub-divided into two (2) climatic systems with sub-tropical conditions in the northern lowlands and central inland areas, and tropical conditions in the southern and coastal areas. This increases the prospect for product diversification.

Currently, the Fisheries and Aquaculture industry employs 1.7% of the labour force in Belize, totalling approximately 2,538 individuals with a multitude of indirect employment opportunities (2016). Presently, capture fisheries species include Spiny Lobster, Queen Conch, Sea Cucumber and Finfish; while culture species include Pacific White Shrimp, Nile Tilapia, Cobia (mariculture) and emerging opportunities in seaweed farming. Belize’s main export markets for Fisheries products include the U.S., Canada, Mexico, Guatemala, CARICOM as well as markets in Asia and Europe.

Although the industry has experienced fluctuations in the Shrimp Industry recently, the Statistical Institute of Belize’s (SIB) report for shrimp exports for January and February 2017 has seen an estimated BZD $2 million dollar increase in exports over 2016. The increase in exports mirrors the rebounding and growth of the shrimp industry which directly employs over 1,400 Belizeans – mostly including women in rural areas who collectively earn approximately BZD $7 million dollars in income. Apart from shrimp farming, Belize has also grown in tilapia and seaweed farming with opportunities that exist to produce and export snapper, grouper, red drum, octopus and sea cucumber among other Fisheries commodities.

Investment Opportunities:

The Fisheries and Aquaculture industry in Belize holds several opportunities for investment including but not limited to the following:

  1. Marine Cage Farming Systems – which are systems within the inner Barrier Reef Lagoon that benefits from major protection from hurricanes due to the various cayes and reef formations in the surrounding areas.
  2. Earthen Embankment Ponds – used to accommodate aquaculture ventures along the coastal plain as well as inland.
  3. Freshwater Cage Farming – used for inland aquaculture developments
  4. Raft Culture / Rope Culture – for oyster and seaweed farming
  5. Seaweed Farming – a valuable commodity towards fisheries diversification, fetching a premium price per pound of dried seaweed both in the local and export markets.
  6. Sea Cucumber Farming – a product in high demand with popularity in Asia stemming from the dried product’s unique components that serve different applications in food and medicine.
  7. Value Addition for Fisheries Commodities – these include value added fisheries products such as “ready to cook,” development of fish feed, or applications in cosmetics through bio prospecting.

For more details on the Managed Access Programme and national initiatives in Fisheries development, please feel free to contact the Belize Fisheries Department at:

Belize Fisheries Department
Coastal Zone Multi-Complex Building
Princess Margaret Drive
Belize City, Belize
Phone: +501-203-2623 / 224-4554
Email: [email protected]

For more details on investment opportunities in Belize’s Fisheries and Aquaculture industry, please feel free to contact our team at BelizeINVEST, a unit of BELTRAIDE!

14 Orchid Garden St.
City of Belmopan
Phone: +501-822-3737/0175
Email: [email protected]