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Wed Aug 14, 2019, 03:38 PM

Why tiny Belize is a world leader in protecting the ocean

Jo Griffin in Punta Gorda
@jogriffin2
Wed 14 Aug 2019 03.00 EDT Last modified on Wed 14 Aug 2019 10.51 EDT

Fish stocks are stable and reef health improving, in part thanks to Belize’s substantial ‘no-take’ zones. Now greater legislation is needed to secure progress

Belize’s system gets fishermen on side in helping to maintain the health of the ocean. All photographs: Tony Rath
Across the turquoise water by the mangrove, forest ranger Allan Halliday spots a fishing skiff. “We’re going over to say hello,” he says, before abruptly changing the boat’s direction. But his real task is to check the couple on board have the licence to fish in this part of the Port Honduras Marine Reserve, one of nine designated zones in Belize.

“We aren’t complaining but others do,” says Alonzo Reymundo, of the rules that now restrict Belize’s 3,000 commercial fishers to two geographic areas each. He and his wife Anselma have been fishing off southern Toledo for 30 years and their boat is laden with 50 or so pounds of shrimp – more than enough, he says, flashing his licence. Today’s catch will be sold as bait and fetch around 330BZ$ (£135), he says.

But not all encounters are as friendly for the rangers from the Toledo Institute for Development and Environment (Tide), whose job includes enforcing the managed access (MA) programme that since 2016 has given traditional fishers the rights to secured grounds if they obtain licences and report their catch. Illegal fishing has declined, says Halliday, but at night there are illicit incursions from Guatemala and high-speed chases around the reserve’s 500-square miles of pristine sea – a vast space to monitor for just four rangers alternating shifts at their station on Abalone Caye.

More:
https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2019/aug/14/why-tiny-belize-is-a-world-leader-in-ocean-protection

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