TIDE is working in partnership with The Belize Fisheries Department (BFD), Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) and Belizean fishers, to explore Managed Access as a fisheries management policy for Belize.
Managed Access works by limiting access to General Use Zones within marine reserves by using a licensing system to allow only “traditional fishermen” to fish commercially in the reserve. This is in response to concern over increasing numbers of fishers, decreasing fish landings, and illegal fishing by Guatemalan and Honduran fishers, who sell Belizean marine products outside Belize, bringing no benefit to Belizean communities. The reserve is also a critical nursery habitat for many species of fish, including commercial species that support local livelihoods. Thus, it is essential the area is not overfished.
The Managed Access project began through community consultations, with guidelines produced by Belize Fisheries Department (BFD). A long term objective is to use TIDE’s commercial species data to inform fisheries model design under a partnership between TIDE, Environmental Development Funds (EDF), BFD, Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) and The Nature Conservancy (TNC), in turn to predict sustainable catch limits for commercial species. Program effectiveness is measured via collection and analysis of catch data from licensed fishers in the short term, and the biological response and economic outcomes in the long term.
A longer term objective for TIDE is to use the habitat data collected from 120 sites in PHMR in 2014 via underwater ground-truthing surveys, combined with remote sensing imagery to generate high resolution habitat maps of the reserve based on Mumby’s (1998) habitat classification scheme. Existing commercial species population data can then be superimposed, with abundance stratified by habitat type to create a mosaic of habitat dependent abundance estimates, which cumulatively can be used to estimate overall abundance of commercial species in PHMR, with an ultimate objective of setting research-based catch limits under the Managed Access program.
Two pilot sites have been selected; Port Honduras Marine Reserve (PHMR), co-managed by BFD and TIDE, and Glover's Reef Marine Reserve (GRMR) managed by BFD with research support from WCS. The program was launched in July 2011 in both reserves, and has run for three years. Due to its success, Managed Access is being expanded to a total of eight Marine Protected Areas in Belize in 2014.