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Part I Overview and main indicators

  1. Country brief
  2. General geographic and economic indicators
  3. FAO Fisheries statistics

Part II Narrative (2018)

  1. Production sector
    • Marine sub-sector
      • Catch profile
      • Landing sites
      • Fishing practices/systems
      • Main resources
      • Management applied to main fisheries
      • Fishing communities
    • Inland sub-sector
      • Catch profile
      • Landing sites
      • Fishing practices/systems
      • Main resources
      • Management applied to main fisheries
    • Aquaculture sub-sector - NASO
    • Recreational sub-sector
  2. Post-harvest sector
    • Fish utilization
    • Fish markets
  3. Socio-economic contribution of the fishery sector
    • Role of fisheries in the national economy
    • Trade
    • Food security
    • Employment
    • Rural development
  4. Trends, issues and development
    • Constraints and opportunities
    • Government and non-government sector policies and development strategies
    • Research, education and training
      • Research
    • Foreign aid
  5. Institutional framework
  6. Legal framework
    • Regional and international legal framework
  7. References

Additional information

  1. FAO Thematic data bases
  2. Publications
  3. Meetings & News archive

Part I Overview and main indicators

Part I of the Fishery and Aquaculture Country Profile is compiled using the most up-to-date information available from the FAO Country briefs and Statistics programmes at the time of publication. The Country Brief and the FAO Fisheries Statistics provided in Part I may, however, have been prepared at different times, which would explain any inconsistencies.

Country briefPrepared: June 2019.

In spite of a relatively short coastline, of about 386 km, Belize borders a marine environment of great significance in terms of living resources and biodiversity: off the shores of the country lies one of the largest coral reef barriers or the world. The fisheries sector plays an important role in the Belize national economy, accounting for 3 percent of national GDP in 2015. 

Capture fisheries production in coastal waters mainly concentrates on two valuable resources: lobster and queen conch. The Lobster annual production is quite stable with an average of around 700 tonnes per year in the 2008-16 period. However the production of conch which has shown stable until 2013 around 3 000 tonnes, in 2014 has dropped sharply to 2 000 tonnes, increasing then to 2 349 tonnes in 2015 and 2776 tonnes in 2016. 

The total production in coastal waters was in 2016 around 900 tonnes. Belize is an “open registry” State, with a number of non-locally owned fishing vessels flying its flag. Currently, Belize reported 60 vessels being authorized to operate in the high seas under the 1995 FAO Compliance Agreement. Information on catches by vessels registered in Belize but operating in offshore waters is available only from sources external to the country. Tuna catches from these vessels have been around an average of 4 000 tonnes per year since 2003 but increased up to 24 000 tonnes in 2012 fluctuating since then between 15 000 in 2013 and 22 000 tonnes in 2015, decreasing again to about 16900 tonnes in 2016. Whereas those of other species, (mainly small pelagics) from Eastern Central Atlantic, and the Southeast Pacific peaked in 2010 at almostaroundover 1400 000 tonnes but decreased in 2016 to around 71 000 tonnes. 

Aquaculture has been on a bumpy road of development in Belize and the total production fell to an estimated 950 tonnes in 2016.. The production is now largely dominated by marine shrimp farming with both investment and market outside of the country. Family-scale tilapia farming operators currently produces less than 100 tonnes all together annually. Foreign invested large-scale tilapia farming in 2004 and marine cage culture of cobia in 2008 ceased to operate in 2011. During 2008-2010, the total aquaculture production was reported to be between 4 500 and 5 700 tonnes. 

Exports of fish and fishery products were USD  21.6 million in 2016 and in the same year, imports were small and valued at a mere USD 0.9 million. Domestic fish consumption, estimated at 13.8 kg per capita in 2013, is mainly covered by domestic production. In 2017, the fisheries industry employed 3 205 full-time and part-time fishers and in 2017 the fishing fleet counted with 561 vessels.  
General geographic and economic indicators

Table 1 - General Geographic and Economic Data – Belize

Shelf area 10,491 km2

Sea Around Us:


Length of continental coastline 386 km World by Map: http://world.bymap.org/Coastlines.html
Fisheries GVA (2014)

BZD 102.7 million

USD 51.4 million *

Statistical Institute of Belize: http://www.sib.org.bz/
* Calculated with UN Operational Rate

Key statistics

Country area22 970km2FAOSTAT. Official data, 2013
Land area22 810km2FAOSTAT. Expert sources from FAO (including other divisions), 2013
Inland water area160km2Computed. Calculated, 2013
Population - Est. & Proj.0.364millionsFAOSTAT. Official data, 2018
Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) area34 426km2VLIZ

Source: FAO Country Profile

FAO Fisheries statisticsTable 2 in this section is based on statistics prepared by the FAO Fishery Information, Data and Statistics Unit and disseminated in 2019. The charts are based on the same source but these are automatically updated every year with the most recent statistics.

Table 2 — FAO fisheries statistics - Belize

       1980  1990  2000  2010  2015  2016  2017 
EMPLOYMENT (thousands)  1.06  1.75  3.80  3.53  3.21  3.21  3.21 
  Aquaculture      0.93  1.06  1.06  1.06  1.06 
  Capture  1.06  1.75  2.87  2.47  2.15  2.15  2.15 
    Inland          0.03  0.03  0.03 
    Marine  1.06  1.75  2.87  2.47  2.12  2.12  2.12 
FLEET(thousands boats)  0.80  0.87  1.07  0.70  0.51  0.56  0.56 
Source: FAO Fishery and Aquaculture Statistics 
1) Due to roundings total may not sum up 

Please Note:Fishery statistical data here presented exclude the production for marine mammals, crocodiles, corals, sponges, pearls, mother-of-pearl and aquatic plants.


Updated 2018Part II Narrative

Part II of the Fishery and Aquaculture Country Profile provides supplementary information that is based on national and other sources and that is valid at the time of compilation (see update year above). References to these sources are provided as far as possible.

Production sectorIn spite of its relatively short extension, only about 386 km, Belize’s coastline is incredibly diverse and is blessed with the second largest barrier reef in the world, an interlocking networks of rivers, creeks and lagoons, shallow water flats, small Cayes and mangrove islands. All these geographical features provide perfect habitats for marine life and fishing.

Belize’s fisheries industry is divided into a domestic fishery and a high seas fishery. The domestic fishery produces on average 5 000 tonnes of fish per year. This fishery is managed by Belize Fisheries Department, which is under the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries, Forestry, the Environment, Sustainable Development and Immigration. This country profile focuses on the domestic fishery only.

The high seas fishery is managed by the High Seas Fishing Unit, which is under the Ministry of Finance. Belize is an “open registry” State, with a number of non-locally owned fishing vessels flying its flag. In 2017, Belize reported 53 vessels being authorized to operate on the high seas under the 1995 FAO Compliance Agreement. Catches over the years decreased from over 350 000 tonnes ten years ago to 100 000 tonnes in recent years.

Marine sub-sectorCatch profileMost of the fishing effort in Belize is focused on the capture of Spiny lobster (Panulirus argus) and Queen conch (Strombus gigas). These represent the largest fisheries within the industry. Queen conch landings are stable and account for about 80 percent of total catch. Spiny lobster register stable landings representing 12 percent of total production. In recent years, a deep slope fishery for red snappers such Caribbean yellow eye snapper (Lutjanus vivanus) has emerged but so far only a few fishers have become involved.

The targeted finfish species for export include groupers of the genera Epinephelus and Mycteroperca; snappers of the genera Lutjanus and Ocyurus; hogfish (Lachnolaimus maximus); king mackerel (Scomberomorus cavalla); great barracuda (Syhyraena barracuda); and jacks of the genera Alectis, Caranx and Trachinotus.

The species for local consumption include the species targeted for export and other species of less commercial value such as grunts (Haemulidae), snooks (Centropomidae), mullets (Mugilidae), porgies (Sparidae) and triggerfish (Balistidae) among others.

Landing sitesMore than 85% of licensed fishers are members/owners of an established fishermen cooperative in Belize. As a result, 90% of the lobster and conch produced in Belize is landed at one of the operating fishermen cooperatives where the products are processed and packaged for export. Currently, there are only two established and functional fishermen cooperatives, which are based in Belize City with an export licence. Two smaller fishermen cooperatives in southern Belize do not export lobster and conch but sell their production to the two major cooperatives. Fishers sell an increasing share of the lobster and conch production to two private companies and middle buyers as they pay a slightly higher price and pay the price in full upon delivery.

In 2016, the Belize government introduced legislation to designate 9 fishing areas along the coast of Belize as shown in Figure 1. The main fishing areas based on the largest number of fishers are Area 3 with 1 100 fishers, followed by Area 6 with 927 fishers and Area 2 with 890 fishers.

Fishing practices/systemsThe Belize fishing sector is officially denominated a commercial artisanal fishery. The national capture fishing effort has been concentrated in the relatively shallow waters of the reef platform and provided employment in 2017 to approximately 2716 fisher folks and 552 registered small (5-10 meters) fishing vessels with outboard engines (15-75 hp) and simple capture methods. The methods include gillnetting, lobster and fish traps, casitas (lobster shades), trolling, hand-line fishing and free diving. The main target species in terms of economic value are Spiny lobsters, Queen conch and mainly snappers and groupers. Fishing activities beyond the barrier reef are minimal and restricted to the small fishing settlements associated with the offshore cays or recreational fishing associated with hotel/resorts on selected cays.

Main resourcesThe main resources are Spiny lobster and Queen conch. The outstanding performance of the Queen conch fishery has not been observed anywhere else in the distributional range of the species. The success of the fishery is attributed to a multi-approach system employed in the management of the fishery including the cooperation and support of the fishing community, the Ecosystem-based Approach to Fisheries management that considers the marine reserve network system, the development and implementation of suitable legislation, patrolling and enforcement of legislation and harvesting based on science. The Fisheries Department issued a Queen Conch Management Plan in 2014, which gives clear indications on the management measures to be applied. The Belize Fisheries Department carries out Queen conch field surveys every two years to assess the status of the resource. The conch fishery is stable and is not considered overexploited.

The Spiny lobster fishery in Belize has remained relatively stable over the past twenty years and it can be characterized as a mature fishery, but not overexploited. Even in light of an open access fishery, the implementation of sound legislation that includes closed season, minimum size limit, gear restrictions and replenishment areas and the constant inputs by the stakeholders have contributed to the sustainability of the fishery. The Fisheries Department has published a Spiny Lobster Management Plan in 2014. The management measures for both Queen conch and Spiny lobster are slightly different from the rest of the region. In general, these specimens are caught with size indications smaller than regionally agreed. The argument used by Belize is that their fishing effort (only free diving) will leave enough to ensure resource resilience. A large proportion of the Queen conch catch landings is pre-adult specimens.

Management applied to main fisheriesFisheries management measures include: the designation of marine protected areas, fully protected species, open/close fishing seasons, size limits, gear restrictions, etc. In 2011, in an effort to move away from being an open access fishery, the Belize Fisheries Department, with the support of the Fisheries Advisory Board, which was followed by Cabinet support resulted in the use of Managed Access (a rights-based approach) at two pilot sites to determine viability and impact (UNDP, 2013). Managed Access was piloted at two sites: the Glover’s Reef Marine Reserve (GRMR) on Glover’s Reef atoll, as well as the Port Honduras Marine Reserve (PHMR) in the southern seas off Punta Gorda Town.

Due to the success of this pilot activity, in 2016 Belize nationally rolled out managed access through the designation of nine fishing zones. Within each of these areas there are existing marine protected areas such as marine reserves, which have preservation, conservation and general use zones; and Fish Spawning Aggregation sites, etc.

As part of its development policy, which is built on the ecosystem approach, conservation is very important in order to maintain the eco-diversity. In addition to the Marine Protected Areas (MPAs), there are other species specific measures to protect species or groups of living aquatic resources. These include:

CoralIt is illegal for any person to take, buy, sell or have in his possession any type of coral. An exception is made in case of black coral which may only be bought, sold or exported with a license from the Fisheries Administrator. Bone Fish (Albula vulpes) Locally known as macabi- no person shall buy or sell any Bone Fish. Shrimp (Penaeus spp) The number of vessels trawling in Belize shall not exceed eight vessels in any given year. Closed Season April 15th - August 14th, inclusive of any year. Conch (Strombus gigas) Shell length should exceed 7 inches. Market clean weight should exceed 3 ounces. Conch meat fillet should exceed 2.75 ouncesClosed season is from July 1st -September 30th. Lobster (Panulirus argus) Minimum carapace length is 3 inches. Minimum tail weight is 4 ounces. Closed season is February 15th-June 14th No person shall take berried females or molting individuals. No Lobster fishing in the fore reef. - no setting of traps or nets on the reef or the fore reef –

Marine Turtles No Person shall buy, sell or have in his possession any articles made of turtle shell. No person may take turtle unless with a license from the Fisheries Administrator (traditional use only). No person should interfere with any turtle nest. Hicatee (Dermatemys mawii) No person shall have in his possession more than three (3), or transport in/on any vehicle more than five (5), such turtles. No person shall fish for females that are greater than 43 cm (17.2 inches) or smaller than 38 cm (15 .2 inches). Closed season is May 1st- May 31st, inclusive in any year.

General Regulations SCUBA equipment is prohibited in any type of fishery Restriction on the setting of nets as follows:

One hundred yard from the reef or the fore reef. At river mouths A half mile from any community In a channel Mesh size regulation Prohibit setting nets and traps in spawning areas Prohibit use of poisons and explosives

Fishermen were expected to provide reports of their catch as part of the criteria for renewal of their licenses. During the first years of the introduction of this regulation, there was a lot of leniency with said catch data requirements. Presently, under national roll out, there is a 100% catch data submission by fishermen from the pilot sites and the Department has distributed catch log books and carrying out training sessions with fishermen from the other fishing areas for them to also be able to begin submitting their catch data.

Management objectivesThe mission of the Belize Fisheries Department is to provide the best possible aquatic and fisheries resources management to the country and people of Belize, with a view to optimize the present and future benefits through efficient and sustainable management.

The main policy objective for the Fisheries Sector is to maintain a sustainable yield of the fisheries resources while continuing to contribute to food production, foreign exchange earnings, to optimize future and present benefits and to improve the nutritional status in the longer term (National Food & Agriculture Policy, 2003). The Belize Fisheries Department executes this mandate through its main policy objectives which are to:

Encourage and promote sustainable fish production systems in both sea areas and inland fisheries;Diversify production of the underutilized and non traditional fish species in territorial waters so as to reduce pressure on high valued fish; Encourage deep sea fishing to take advantage of Belize’s resources in its deep sea territorial waters; Retain product quality and remain competitive in export markets; Increase value added activities in the production system and fish processing;Stabilize landings for export markets; Maintain maximum economic sustainable yield; Improve management of the ecological systems and the marine environment of fish habitats; Improve the economic and social well-being of the fishers and their communities. Presently, the fisheries resources are managed through the enactment of Fisheries Regulations which utilize the principles of closed seasons, closed areas, prohibited methods, females and juvenile protection.

Management measures and institutional arrangementsBelize has a well-established institutional and policy framework for the conservation and sustainable use of marine resources. Belize is at the forefront regarding innovative programs and projects in fisheries and marine ecosystems management.

The National Integrated Coastal Zone Management (ICZM) Plan was finalized and endorsed in 2016. The Plan recommends actions that will ensure sustainable coastal resource use by balancing conservation ideals with the economic and social needs of Belize. The plan presents an "Informed management scenario, balancing conservation and development, based on assessments of use, value, ecosystems, socio-ecological vulnerability and resilience, socio-economic vulnerability, ecosystem adaptation". The implementation of this plan is fully supported by the public. It should be noted, however, that the Belize Coastal Zone Management Authority and Institute (CZMAI), established as a Statutory Authority under the Coastal Zone Management Act in 1988, has no mandate for implementation. It relies on respective government agencies and Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) to mainstream and implement plan.

Fishing communitiesMost of the fishers and plant workers only completed primary school education. Many of the traditional fishers live in the northern communities (Sarteneja, Copper Bank and Chunox), but fish mainly in the central and southern zones and in the three (3) offshore atolls. They leave their boats in southern Belize, particularly In Mango Creek and Placencia and use public road transport to go home. This creates a mismatch between the Community Committees that do the vetting of the license applications for a specific zone, which are mainly made up of coastal communities close to the zone and the real fishing zones of the fishers.

Inland sub-sectorFishing in inland water bodies is done at a small scale level, primarily for family consumption. There is limited commercial fishing in inland water bodies throughout Belize.

Catch profileIn 2016, fishers extracted over 3,000 pounds of freshwater finfish species including Crana, Bay Snook, Tuba, and Tilapia. Only black tilapia and bay snook are of commercial interest. A fisher can catch about 100 pounds of whole fish per day using gillnets. They sell this at between B$ 3-5 per pound. Fishing is best during the dry (summer season) season as water levels decrease. In some larger water bodies production during the dry season is considerable. People prefer the bay snook, as tilapia has a mud taste.

Landing sitesInland fishing at the Crooked Tree Lagoon (part of the Crooked Tree Wildlife Sanctuary) is conflictual; however these difficulties have been overcome through an agreement between the Belize Audubon Society (management of the sanctuary) and Belize Fisheries Department.

Fishing practices/systemsThe preferred fishing gear used for fishing in inland water bodies in Belize include hand lining followed by use of monofilament gillnet (Crooked Tree Lagoon) and spear fishing. In Crooked Tree Lagoon the fishers also use pull-nets in the dry season and they can harvest up to 3,000 pounds per haul. All this fish is bought up by intermediaries who take it to the urban centres. Records held at Belize Fisheries Department show few fishers (< 50 fisher folks) are licensed to fish in inland water bodies. However, it is estimated that as much as 200 fisher folks may be engaged in inland fishing in Belize and as much as 90 percent of harvested fish is used for personal and family consumption particularly during the dry season, which runs from January to June of each year. There is a small number female fishers in rural Belize.

Main resourcesThe species traditionally fished for family consumption include Black tilapia (Oreochromis niloticus), Mayan cichlid (Cichlasoma urophthalmus),), Bay snook (Petenia splendida), Firemouth cichlid (Thorichthys meeki), Mayan catfish (Sciades (Ariopsis) assimilis) and Snook (Centropomus parallelus and Centropomus ensiferus).

Management applied to main fisheriesBelize fisheries laws (Chapter 210 and 210s) are applicable to marine areas and inland water bodies since 2003. There are no indications or field data that show overfishing of a particular inland water fish species. Sporadic fisheries enforcement is done in inland water ways particularly for Hicatee turtle but generally speaking this little management of inland water bodies. For sports fishing there are restrictions as far as three species are concerned: Bonefish (Albula vulpes), tarpon (Megalops atlanticus) and Permit (Trachinotus falcatus). For these, there is a catch and release obligation. For river and lagoon fishing there are restrictions on gillnet use.The Government of Belize has designed several inland areas as sanctuaries (Chiquibul National Park, Crooked Tree Wildlife Sanctuary, etc.) to protected species diversity and for the maintenance of the integrity and functioning of inland ecosystems.Currently, there is no initiative or program for repopulation of endemic freshwater finfish species. The Belize Fisheries Department has initiated in 2016 an inland fisheries program that seeks to characterize inland fisheries and to promote public awareness of fisheries regulations applicable to inland fishing including the use of gillnets, and regulations on the Hicatee turtle (Dermatemys mawii), which is a critically endangered freshwater turtle and others.

Aquaculture sub-sectorAquaculture in Belize formally began in 1982 with the development of ten acres (4 ha) of experimental ponds by a private company in southern Belize. Since that time, the industry has developed rapidly and has become firmly established as a significant contributor to the Belizean economy in terms of foreign exchange earnings, income generation, employment, nutrition, and food security. The development of aquaculture in Belize however, has been on a bumpy road in recent years. Shrimp is the main cultured product in the country. In 2016, production of this species was below 1 000 tonnes, while in 2004 the production of this species exceeded 11 000 tonnes. Disease problems wiped out the shrimp production and at present, very few ponds are still in use.

Family-scale tilapia farming currently produces less than 100 tonnes all together annually. Foreign invested large-scale tilapia farming in 2004 and marine cage culture of cobia in 2008 ceased to operate in 2011, as a result of the destruction caused by a hurricane.
In relation to small-scale fish farming, there are currently over fifteen acres of small-scale fish farming operations involved in the husbandry of a number of native finfish cichlids, such as the Bay Snook (Petenia splendida), the Crana (Cichlasoma uropthalmus) and the Tuba (C. synspilum), as well as the introduced or exotic Nile Tilapia (Oreochromis niloticus). Inland aquaculture is part of the mandate of the Ministry of Agriculture and Mariculture is with the Department of Fisheries.

Recreational sub-sectorThe tourism industry plays a major role in the socio-economic development of Belize. In recent years more tourists practice and engage in marine and inland sport fishing activities offered through fishing lodges and tours. Belize Sports Fishing Licences (catch & release only) are required in Belize. Sport fishing is very popular and generates millions of dollars in places such as San Pedro on Ambergris Caye, Caye Caulker, Placencia and Corozal. The licences for sports fishing are issued by Coastal Zone Management Authority (CZMA) The targeted species in inland fishery include species like the Common Snook (Centropomus undecimalis), but also the three species that form the big slam (the Bonefish (Albula vulpes), the Permit (Trachinotus falcatus) and the Tarpon (Megalopus atlanticus). The availability of sport fishing species is considered stable. Sport fishing greatly benefits Belize but there is no reliable published data on the number of tourists that are involved in inland sport fishing activities as this activity is managed by the Coastal Zone Management Authority. There is no management system to monitor the activity, collect data and enforcement of regulations in the tourism sector. The Fisheries Department enforces the Fisheries laws but is not mandated to enforce sport fishing laws.

Post-harvest sectorFish utilizationDuring the last two years, a substantial decline in supply of marine fish to the domestic market was recorded, mainly due to lower catches. Two processing plants are allowed to export marine fish to the European Union. The two largest Fishermen’s Cooperatives are certified for export to the United States of America and the CARICOM by meeting the HACCP requirements. The main products, lobster, conch and demersal fish are exported with very little processing and hardly any additional processing into secondary products is practiced. They are usually exported as frozen products. Marine fish is mainly sold in fresh form at the municipal fish markets. Finfish harvested from inland water bodies is generally gutted and gills are removed and sold fresh with no additional processing. Fish is placed in ice for conservation and is sold within the communities A minor proportion is still sold on the road side in stringed bunches weighing two (2) to five (5) pounds. The price for whole fresh black tilapia ranges from USD 1.00 to USD 2.00 per pound.

Fish marketsIn downtown Belize City, the Conch Shell Bay Fish Market is the main fish market in Belize City. This fish market sits on a small bridge over a canal fed by the Belize River. Fishermen come right up to the curb in their boats to sell fish as vendors clean and prepare the day’s catch. Unlike in other Central American countries, only few women are fish sellers and they offer their services to clean the fish, outside of the official market place. Other fish markets are located in Corozal Town, Dangriga and Punta Gorda Town. Fish is also sold on Saturdays in San Ignacio, which is located in the Cayo District in western Belize.

Socio-economic contribution of the fishery sectorRole of fisheries in the national economyThe Fisheries Sector continues to play an important role in the Belize National Economy. Fishery Products were the third largest foreign exchange earner for the country of Belize, accounting for nearly 3 percent of national Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in 2015, a substantial decline from 6.3 percent in 2003 and almost entirely due to the crisis in the shrimp culture sub-sector. However, the contribution of fisheries and aquaculture to the national GDP is still important, compared to other Caribbean countries where the contribution of Fisheries to GDP was generally less than one percent. The tourism sector contributes 36%, which explains that fishery issues are always inferior to issues related to the tourism development.

TradeExports of fish and fishery products were USD 64.4 million in 2014 and declined to 15.6 in 2016. The main reason for this decline was lower Spiny lobster, Queen conch and shrimp exports from the country. Export has gone down considerably over the past two years as the major exporting company now also has a conch and lobster export license and is more interested in the latter two. Imports are generally small. Ninety percent of the lobster, conch and farmed shrimp produced in Belize are sold directly to foreign export markets. The other ten percent is available for selling on the local market to consumers and the tourism sector in accordance to the law. It is very difficult to estimate how much undersized and illegal product is sold directly on the local market or consumed by the fishers and their families.

Food securityMost of the finfish landed is sold locally and consumed by Belizeans and tourist visitors. Domestic fish consumption, estimated at 13.8 kg per capita in 2013, is mainly covered by domestic production. Fish and chicken are the main source of animal protein in most coastal and rural communities. Fishing has traditionally been a mean of subsistence in coastal communities and the main source of protein. However, it has suffered a transformation to a commercial activity over the years. As a result, the availability of fish as an inexpensive source of animal protein has been affected. Community members in one of Belize’s traditional fishing villages have estimated that it costs approximately USD 15 a day to maintain basic nutrition in a household of six. Consequently, most families unable to raise this amount, have been forced to maintain a diet lacking in protein.

EmploymentIn 2017, the fisheries division issued 2,716 fisher folk licences. The number increased from 2,436 in 2014. It is estimated that 3 percent of the fishers are women. Before the shrimp culture crisis, more than 1,400 people were employed by the shrimp farming sector in Belize, a workforce that consisted mostly of women in rural areas. However, due to the crisis, all these people are unemployed at the moment. In addition, the fish processing sector created an additional 1 000 jobs.

Rural developmentThe fisheries and aquaculture sectors in rural communities play a major role in their social and economic development, e.g. the relative contribution of fishery and aquaculture to local food supply in rural communities; the maintenance of population in rural territories; livelihood; the economy, creating peripheral job opportunities; fishing communities living in isolation or to fishing/aquaculture conducted as secondary activities; issues on marketing and transportation; competition over land and water use with other sectors, etc.

Trends, issues and developmentConstraints and opportunitiesIn the marine fisheries sector, fisher folks are are required to submit fish catch log sheets at the end of each fishing trip but submission is irregular and therefore does not really provide useful data on catch data and fishing effort.. IN addition, the Fisheries Department is not processing the data submitted in the log sheets. The purpose of the log sheets will need to be gradually introduced to fishers so that they understand its use and usefulness. Fishers claim that there is no feedback on the outcome of the information provided to the authorities.Since June 2016, the Fisheries Department introduced a rights-based fisheries management tool to the national waters of Belize and in January 2017 this management tool was further supported with the introduction of 9 fishing areas in the waters of Belize. Notwithstanding these advances, it is clear the Fisheries Department lacks the full capacity to implement tenure in the marine fisheries sector of Belize. Inland fishery resources are under threat mainly from tourism and housing developments along Belize’s inland water bodies. Weak institutional and legal frameworks, climate change among other factors are not conducive to the maintenance of healthy fishing habitats and ecosystems. Ineffective institutional and legal frameworks and lack of enforcement on Belize’s fisheries and environmental regulations can contribute to further degradation of ecosystems if not properly addressed. Agencies that are in charge of safeguarding the integrity of Belize’s natural ecosystems and resources also lack personnel, capacity, and financial resources. In addition, Climate Change represents a serious and significant threat to Belize’s inland water bodies and rising water temperatures may have impact on the diversity and abundance of freshwater fish species.There is good demand for inland fish in the country, but some worries about the mercury content of the bay snook. Inland fisheries is not a priority for the Fisheries Department, as it considers that its contribution is not significant (or there is no political will and/or funds). There is definitely potential, particularly in the sense of food security and source of nutritional food for the rural population.

Government and non-government sector policies and development strategiesThe Integrated Coastal Zone Management (ICZM) Plan was finalized and endorsed in 2016 and is the main sector policy, a joint activity between government and non-governmental organizations (NGOs). Belize has prepared a National Strategy and Action Plan for the development of freshwater aquaculture, with emphasis on tilapia farming.

Research, education and trainingResearchFisheries research activities in Belize has been very active in recent years. The Queen conch is a species that has received a lot of attention due to its listing in CITES Appendix II. Other species such as sharks and fin fish species have also seen some research work done in these areas. In general the small-scale fisheries of Belize has benefitted from science-based co-management, partnerships, participatory processes and stewardship incentives to improve its performance. Research in the future will include global fishery prospects under contrasting management regimes, and other studies on the impact of tenure and user rights in fisheries.

The scientific research of the resource base lacks a coordinated approach. A substantial number of research projects are ongoing, but are not coordinated even though universities and NGOs contribute in a major way to this work.

Foreign aidThe GOB-ROC Aquaculture Project is a five-year project financed by Taiwan (Republic of China) since 2012 has provided assistance to the Ministry of Natural Resources and Agriculture in three stages. The first stage involved the assembling a team of experts to design, plan and oversee the construction of a tilapia hatchery center, while professional consultants were also be dispatched to build the capacity of local personnel. The second stage involved introducing Taiwan’s tilapia farming skills and experience, providing Belizean fish farmers with a stable supply of high-quality, single-sex fry, as well as assisting cooperating units to conduct research into the development of alternative feeds, thereby reducing farmers’ costs. The third stage involved assistance to establish tilapia marketing mechanisms, prompting the overall goal of facilitating the development of a small- to medium-scale tilapia farming industry within Belize.The World Bank is presently financing a US$10 million Marine Conservation and Climate Adaptation Project, which has a strong fisheries component. Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) and other local and international NGOs, like Turneffe Atoll Marine Reserve (TASA), World Conservation Society (WCS), Belize Audubon Society (BAS) and The Nature Conservancy (TNC) are financing various projects in the field of user rights and zoning in fisheries.

Institutional frameworkThe Fisheries Department is under the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries, Forestry, The Environment, Sustainable Development and Immigration. It is headed by the Fisheries Administrator and assisted by several technical staff to carry out its functions. The Department’s responsibilities are programed into four units: the Policy and Planning Unit, the Conservation and Compliance Unit, the Capture Fisheries Unit, and the Ecosystem Management Unit. The main activities of the Fisheries Department are conservation and sustainable use of fishery resources, registration and licenses, fisheries research, education, liaise with fishing cooperatives, management of marine reserves, fisheries law enforcement, export and research permits. The Organigram is given in Annex *****The current outdated legislative framework is likely to be replaced on the short term (end of 2018) by a new Fisheries Resource Act, which contemplates more adequately concepts emanating from the international instruments which Belize has signed or is a non-contracting partner to, as well as issues which form part of the current management scenarios in the local fishery sector like marine protected areas and replenishment zones.

Belize is member of the Caribbean Regional Fisheries Mechanism (CRFM), the Central America Fisheries and Aquaculture Organization (OSPESCA), the Centre for Marketing Information and Advisory Services for Fishery Products in Latin America and the Caribbean (INFOPESCA), the Indian Ocean Tuna Commission (IOTC), the Inter-American Tropical Tuna Commission (IATTC), the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT), the International Whaling Commission (IWC), Latin American Organization for Fisheries Development (OLDEPESCA), and Western Central Atlantic Fishery Commission (WECAFC). Belize has a strong commitment with the international community, particularly in the areas of the environment and sustainability. With direct reference to the marine environment and fisheries, it is a party or a cooperating non-contracting party of such wide ranging agreements as United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands of International Importance (RAMSAR) and the FAO Code of Conduct. In addition, the country adheres to various legal instruments, like the ones on Illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing, Port State Measures, themes which have also been taken up by regional policy frameworks like CARICOM/CRFM and OSPESCA, of which Belize is an active member

Legal frameworkThe law governing the fisheries sector in Belize dates back to September 24, 1948. Through subsequent amendments, the Fisheries Ordinance, Chapter 133 of the laws of Belize, 1948 was consolidated into the Fisheries Ordinance, Chapter 174 of the laws of Belize, 1980. Since then, further amendments have led to the current Fisheries Ordinance, Chapter 210 of the laws of Belize, Revised Edition 2000. Presently, the government is working on a new Fisheries Bill. Complimentary to the Fisheries Ordinance is the Fisheries Regulations, 1977 that has undergone several amendments with the most recent being the Fisheries Regulations of 2004. The Legislation that impacts directly on the Belizean Fishing Industry is as follows: The main legislation for the fishing industry is the High Seas Fishing Act, Cap. 210:10, 2003 and, The Fisheries Act, Cap. 210, 2000. Belize Agricultural Health Authority (BAHA) regulates animal health issues as stated under the Meat and Livestock Act. The Fisheries Act requires that artisanal fishers and fishing vessels are licensed annually in order to fish for commercial purposes. Further, export of fishery products used to be allowed only for established fishing cooperatives, but this has been slowly liberalized in recent years with the issuing of 2 permits to private companies for the export of fish and fishery products. The High Seas fishery is regulated by the High Seas Fishing Act and requires vessels to be registered with International Merchant Marine Registry of Belize (IMMARBE). Licenses are conditional upon fishing area, type of fish to be caught, and the period of the year. All licenses are provided by the Belize Fisheries Department.

Regional and international legal frameworkSince August 1983, Belize is a Party to UNCLOS and has become Party to the 1995 UN Fish Stocks Agreement as well as to the 1995 FAO Compliance Agreement in July 2005.

Figure 1. Fishing areas of Belize
Figure 1. Fishing areas of Belize

Organigram Belize Fisheries

BAHA Belize Agricultural Health Authority
BAS Belize Audubon Society
BFAB Belize Fisheries Advisory Board
CARICOM Caribbean Community
CRFM Caribbean Regional Fisheries Mechanism
CITES Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora
CZMAI Coastal Zone Management Authority and Institute
EDF Environmental Defense Fund
FAO Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations
GDP Gross Domestic Product
GRMR Glover’s Reef Marine Reserve
hp Horse power
IATTC Inter-American Tropical Tuna Commission
ICCAT International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas
IMMARBE International Merchant Marine Registry of Belize
INFOPESCA Centre for Marketing Information and Advisory Services for Fishery Products in Latin America and the Caribbean
IOTC Indian Ocean Tuna Commission
IUU Illegal, unreported and unregulated
IWC International Whaling Commission
MPA Marine Protected Areas
OLDEPESCA Latin American Organization for Fisheries Development
OSPESCA Central America Fisheries and Aquaculture Organization
PHMR Port Honduras Marine Reserve
ICZM Integrated Coastal Zone Management
IWC International Whaling Commission
NGO Non-Governmental Organizations
RAMSAR Ramsar Convention on Wetlands of International Importance
TASA Turneffe Atoll Marine Reserve
TNC The Nature Conservancy
UN United Nations
UNCLOS United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea
UNDP United Nations Development Programme
USD United States of America Dollar
WCS World Conservation Society
WECAFC Western Central Atlantic Fishery Commission

Belize Fisheries Department website (2018).
Belize Fisheries Department (2014) Belize Queen conch (Strombus gigas) Management Plan.
Belize Fisheries Department (2014) Belize Spiny lobster (Panulirus argus) Management Plan.
Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre (2016) A National Climate Change Policy, Strategy And Action Plan To Address Climate Change In Belize.
EDF (2016), Belize Implements National Sustainable Fisheries Reforms International Financial Consulting Ltd (2017) Strategic Plan for NPAS Strategic Development PlanMartinez, I. (2018) Licensing Update, Fisheries Division, Belize.

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