Belize to Increase Ocean No-Take Zones

Reader Contribution by Environmental Defense Fund
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At the 2018 World Ocean Summit in Riviera Maya, Mexico, Belize announced its plans to increase the percentage of protected “no-take” ocean zones from three percent to ten percent by the end of 2018. No-take zones are marine protected areas that do not allow fishing, mining, drilling, or any other activities that could negatively affect or harm the protected area.

As a small coastal country, Belize depends on its oceans for jobs, income, and food. Protecting the oceans of Belize is a matter of survival for its citizens, which is why they have taken this initiative to continue preserving their oceans, as well as the reefs and fish who inhabit them.

“For Belize, a healthy ocean and small-scale fishing are a matter of survival,” said Fisheries Administrator, Beverly Wade.

This new move for ocean preservation expansion comes as Belize is being recognized for its work and impact in sustainable fisheries. Current no-take zones protected by Belize show some of the highest numbers of growing fish populations and expanding biodiversity. By working to increase their percentage of protected no-take zones, the country is leading the world forward in ocean preservation policies, and conserving its seas to support future generations of Belizeans and fish communities.

The results of fish population and reef growth also highlight that protecting more areas of the ocean has positive benefits to the ecosystem, and that protecting oceans form over fishing will produce more fish populations long-term.

Belize’s new approach involves creating incentives for fishing communities, implementing a new policy called “Managed Access”. Through this policy, fishers and fisheries are rewarded with the ability to control their own future through licenses, giving them access to fish in specific geographic locations under the Territorial Use Right for Fishing (TURF). Combined with a rising percentage of no-take zones, these managed access zones are key in rebuilding fish populations for future fisheries of Belize. They will also help to stabilize jobs for fishers of Belize, which depend on the protection and health of the oceanic ecosystems for income.

The extensive work done by Belize to protect its oceans has significantly reduced the amount of illegal fishing in the region and drastically improved the lifespan of the fishing businesses and communities. They have become one of the leaders in ocean conservation, and can help show others the importance of protecting their ocean communities for future generations.

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