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Delivering technical assistance on Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) in Belize

Belize is known for its rich marine environment, home to habitats including world-famous coral reefs, over 450 offshore islands, mangroves, and seagrasses. These habitats are integral to Belize’s two major industries of agriculture and tourism, where they provide food security, employment, foreign income, and recreation. Belize's internationally recognised ecotourism industry attracts interest due to the country’s variety of wildlife, cultural hotspots, such as Mayan ruins, and one of the longest barrier reefs in the world.  

Belize has been globally recognized as a leader in conservation, retaining 60% of its natural forest cover, approximately 36% of its land is designated protected areas, and 28% of its territorial waters fall within marine protected areas. Belize has committed to further increasing its marine protection in line with the 30-by-30 initiative. Belize became the first country in the world to completely ban bottom trawling in all their waters, including within their Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) in December 2010. 

The Ocean Country Partnership Programme (OCPP) is partnering with the Government of Belize to explore opportunities to support effective management of their marine environment. The partnership will focus on providing demand-led technical assistance around the three key themes of the OCPP: marine biodiversity, marine pollution and sustainable seafood.  

The focus of the marine biodiversity theme is to provide support for the Belizean MPA (Marine Protected Area) network, with an emphasis on streamlining current processes, and improving management, reporting and outreach across the MPA network.    

Introduction

Working in partnership with the Government of Belize, the OCPP will initially be undertaking several reviews, including a review of existing Protected Area Management Effectiveness (PAME) assessments and Belize’s National Protected Area System Management Effectiveness Evaluation Tool (NPAS-MEE), a review of current data protocols, stakeholder mapping within the marine biodiversity and MPA fields, and an initial risk assessment of Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) fisheries in Belizean waters.

These reviews will inform further technical assistance around marine biodiversity and MPAs, that will be identified and prioritised with the Belize government.

The OCPP work in Belize is being supported in the UK by experts from JNCC (Joint Nature Conservation Committee), the Marine Management Organisation and the Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture (Cefas). If you have any questions about this work, please get in touch

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Protected Area Management Effectiveness (PAME) Assessment Review

Protected Area Management Effectiveness (PAME) assessments are used globally to help protected area managers to measure and understand the impact of their management actions on protected areas. They help to track progress towards the protected area goals and objectives, identifying priorities to improve future management and enabling effective resource allocation. They also provide information on the management of a protected area that can be clearly communicated to a wide range of stakeholders. There have been many PAME methodologies developed over the years, ranging from quick checklists to detailed assessments. Further details about PAME and examples of frameworks used for assessing management effectiveness can be viewed in Hockings et al. (2006) Evaluating Effectiveness: A Framework for Assessing Management Effectiveness of Protected Areas. 

Belize has a long history of implementing PAME assessments, both at an individual MPA level and at a national level through the National Protected Areas System Management Effectiveness Assessment Tool (NPAS-MEE). A number of PAME methodologies have been used, with several of these methods being incorporated into the Belize-specific NPAS-MEE.  

The OCPP will be working with the Government of Belize and other stakeholders to review the PAME assessments being used across Belize’s MPAs, including the NPAS-MEE, and identify recommendations to ensure a consistent, streamlined approach with results that can be easily communicated to meet a range of needs.  

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Stakeholder Mapping

Belize’s incredible marine and terrestrial habitats along with their world-leading work in conservation, means there are a lot of stakeholders working in the conservation sector, including government and private organisations, NGOs, researchers, and community groups.  

The OCPP is working with the Government of Belize to help identify the stakeholders working within the marine environment, along with information on their roles and remits.

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Data Protocols

Belize collects a huge wealth of data, both within MPAs and in their wider marine environment, focussed on sensitive habitats and species, and commercial species.   

The OCPP is working with the Government of Belize to streamline current data protocols, data strategies and associated indicators. This will allow for more consistent, efficient data collection, reporting and decision making. 

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Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated Fishing (IUU)

The OCPP will work with the Government of Belize to develop a IUU risk profile for Belize waters, building a better understanding of compliance threats within and surrounding Belize’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ). This will allow drivers of non-compliant activity to be identified and identify where new technologies may help monitoring and enforcement. 

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Ocean Country Partnership Programme

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