Gorgonians, blue sky and kayaker.
Turneffe Atoll, Belize Gorgonians, blue sky and kayaker, Turneffe Atoll, Belize, Caribbean. © Ethan Daniels

The Nature Conservancy in Belize

Belize

Ocean Conservation. Charting a Sustainable Course for Oceans and People.

Though commercial fishing and tourism bring substantial revenues to Belize's economy, they also threaten to destroy the very ecosystems that produce fish, attract tourists and buffer coastal communities from storms.

"Our sustainable aquaculture and fisheries management efforts restore both the environment and the economy. We are helping fishers to stay on the water, in the environment they know and love, while restoring our fisheries. Now that is what I call a win win for this generation and generations to come." —Julie Robinson, Belize Oceans manager and fisheries strategy lead for the Mesoamerican Reef.

In Belize, we safeguard the Mesoamerican Reef by:

Protecting marine and coastal ecosystems that sustain fisheries and safeguard communities and infrastructure
Transforming practices, policies and incentives to enhance the health and resilience of coastal ecosystems
Inspiring those who drive ocean and coastal development to better manage fisheries and invest in natural infrastructure

Oceans provide half of our oxygen, absorb carbon dioxide, sustain coastal economies and generate food for millions. Human activity and climate change are straining Belize's coastal habitats and depleting fish stocks.

As more people turn towards Belize's ocean resources, we are developing innovative mechanisms to promote sustainable seafood, secure livelihoods and conserve marine habitats.

In Belize, we safeguard the Mesoamerican Reef by:

  • Protecting marine and coastal ecosystems that sustain fisheries and safeguard communities and infrastructure.
    • We are developing science-based decision support systems and methods to protect critical marine habitats and fishing-grounds, securing the sustainable use of dwindling fish stocks.
  • Transforming practices, policies and incentives to enhance the health and resilience of coastal ecosystems.
    • Through science and partnerships, policies and corporate practices, we are transforming the way industrial and artisanal fisheries in Belize are managed, improving their social and economic performance.
  • Inspiring those who drive ocean and coastal development to better manage fisheries and invest in natural infrastructure.
    • We are catalyzing action among governments, corporations, communities and the general public to adopt best practices and engage in fisheries policy reform.
Mr. Godfrey
PLACE_HOLDER PLACE_HOLDER © PLACE_HOLDER

Above, a whale shark at Gladden Spit in Belize's Barrier Reef. The Mesoamerican Reef spans 625 miles from the tip of Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula, through Belize, Guatemala and Honduras. It is the largest coral reef system in the Western Hemisphere and home to 500 fish species and the largest aggregation of whale sharks in the world. Since 1990, The Nature Conservancy has worked with local partners and Belize's government, to restore and protect key habitats, manage fisheries and build the resilience of vulnerable coastal communities.

  • We are working with fishing cooperatives across the Mesoamerican reef to help small-scale fisherman transition to sustainable fishing practices, including no-take zones in ecologically vulnerable areas and important fish and lobster spawning grounds.

Watch a video of Belize's marine habitats.


Mr. Godfrey
PLACE_HOLDER PLACE_HOLDER © PLACE_HOLDER

Vendor’s shouts of “SEAWEED! GET YOUR ICE COLD SEAWEED!” ring through the hot, busy streets of Belize City. It’s a sweet, milky drink that could save Belize’s fishing industry.

Fishers have traditionally harvested seaweed (above) while on their fishing trips as supplemental income to their traditional catch of conch, lobster and fish. However, the fish are getting smaller, the conch harder to find and the lobsters have moved to deeper waters. But the seaweed remains. Fishers are struggling to make a living and seaweed is coming to the rescue!

  • Building off decades of conservation work in Belize, together with USAID and local fishers, TNC has established two pilot seaweed farms to diversify fishermen’s incomes and provide new habitats for marine species that thrive in seaweed.

Farmers like Randy Tucker and Luis Godfrey, former fishermen who now grow seaweed with the Conservancy’s assistance, have already observed juvenile lobster, conch and hogfish returning to the areas where they’re cultivating seaweed.

“It gives me great pleasure to see these inhabitants hanging out in the seaweed we’re planting,” says Godfery.

Julie Robinson, Fisheries Strategy Lead for Mexico and Northern Central America, explains, “Our efforts restore both the environment and the economy. We are helping fishers to stay on the water in the environment they know and love while restoring our fisheries. Now that is what I call a win-win for this generation and generations to come.”

Read Julie Robinson's blog here, and learn more about her efforts to save the Mesoamerican reef. 


Blue sky and reef
PLACE_HOLDER PLACE_HOLDER © PLACE_HOLDER

Inspiring those who drive ocean and coastal development to better manage fisheries and invest in natural infrastructure.

  • Building off more than three decades of work in Belize, we are setting industry standards by working with the National Fisherman Cooperative (NFC) to map, engage, and align the Spiny Lobster and Queen Conch value chains with sustainable practices and premium markets. We are strengthening Belize’s fisheries policy and governance and were invited to coordinate Belize’s National Lobster Working Group, bringing together multi-sector stakeholders like the Belize Fisheries Department and National Fisherman Cooperative, among others.
  • The Mesoamerican reef is located directly on the pathway of tropical storms and hurricanes. More than 2 million people depend on its protection from natural disasters. Unfortunately, unsustainable coastal development is removing and degrading these natural systems. The Nature Conservancy makes the economic case with the private sector, government and communities to invest in natural infrastructure and protect the Mesoamerican Reef's enormous biodiversity.
  • TNC is leading, with the support of AgroLAC and USAID, the Resilient Central America program, working to improve capacity and implement effective fishery management practices across Belize in face of a changing climate.
    • Learn about our work leading RESCA here.