An agreement between Caribeña Producers Cooperative and the Community Management of Protected Areas Conservation Project (COMPACT) was signed on Monday for funding to carry out studies in Bacalar Chico Marine Reserve (BCMR).
COMPACT visited Belize last year on behalf of US billionaire Ted Turner who donated millions of dollars to be used for four World Heritage Sites which include the Belize Barrier Reef. From the money donated, BZ$1.5 million was allocated for Belize to use to complete as many as 15 projects at BZ$100,000 per project.
Through the United Nations Development Program (UNDP)/Global Environment Facility (GEF) UNDP-GEF/Small Grants Program (SGP), monies are distributed to accepted participants. A total of $99,000 was designated to aid this project which will hopefully sustain the livelihood of fishermen for years to come. The grant proposal for the project titled, "Fisher Training in Marine Protected Area/Zoning Effectiveness Evaluation," was prepared by Caribeña Cooperative and Green Reef Environmental Institute.
A previous planning grant was used to determine which research methods would be used to collect accurate, reliable and useful data. The information from the current project will be used to evaluate the success of BCMR management practices in achieving sustainable fisheries in their marine reserve, after assessing the data collected and through continued monitoring. The ultimate result will hopefully achieve a balance between species conservation and commercial fishing.
According to the current proposal, the most important part of the project is to make it possible for local fishermen to participate in the decision-making process and management of Bacalar Chico Marine Reserve. This objective will be achieved by assisting fishers in the survey, mapping and evaluation of commercially important species within the reserve. Species and their habitats studied will include conch, lobster and fin fish, and the data collected will determine which zones within the reserve need to be designated protected areas or if already established protected zones need to be changed. There are currently two conservation zones, two general use zones and one preservation zone included in the management plan of BCMR. According to the proposal two community residents will assist with the data, and Green Reef and BCMR staff will verify and monitor the data collected.
The project will train fishermen in the collection and evaluation of species and habitat data used to establish World Heritage Sites-Marine Protected Areas management zones. Expected project results include baseline descriptions of such things as: commercial species distribution and their reproductive cycles; conservation costs to fishermen, fisher yield and value, and fisher activity within BCMR; commercial species and habitat distributions with respect to existing and recommended (if different) zoning boundaries; zoning effectiveness with respect to fisheries and conservation management objectives.
Collected data will be processed and evaluated by Green Reef Educational Institute. Local marine biologist Greg Smith has worked with the project from its inception and will actively participate in this process as well. A final report will be drafted followed by a formal presentation of the findings to members of the community, project participants and stakeholders. The project is scheduled to commence this month.