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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 as protected areas, and 28% of its territorial waters fall within marine protected areas (MPAs). 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 OCPP: marine biodiversity, marine pollution and sustainable seafood.

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


Working in partnership with the Government of Belize, OCPP has undertaken a review of the current Protected Area Management Effectiveness (PAME) assessments, stakeholder mapping and a data review. OCPP has also provided technical assistance in furthering Marine Protected Area (MPA) compliance, monitoring and enforcement strategies, through Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) risk profiling and training support.

Technical assistance has been provided through these activities to strengthen existing regulatory frameworks, policies and plans for the marine environment using inclusive and sustainable marine governance and strengthening marine management, monitoring and enforcement capabilities. The outputs of this work will also help to increase scientific and technical assistance by providing access to, and training in the use of, scientific equipment, infrastructure, and data.  

Further technical assistance is being identified and prioritised with the Government of Belize throughout the programme. Newer areas developing include support on IUCN Green Listing, a review of Belize’s Managed Access Programme and deep-sea habitat mapping. Details of activities will be listed below as they develop.

OCPP work in Belize is being supported in the UK by experts from JNCC (Joint Nature Conservation Committee), the Marine Management Organisation and Cefas. If you have any questions about this work, please message

OCPP and MBECA staff

OCPP meeting staff from the Ministry of Blue Economy and Civil Aviation (MBECA).


Protected Area Management Effectiveness (PAME) Assessment Review

PAME assessments are tools 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 goals and objectives of the protected area, identifying priorities to improve future management and enable effective resource allocation. They also provide information on management that can be clearly communicated to a wide range of stakeholders. There have been numerous PAME methodologies developed over the years, ranging from quick checklists to detailed assessments, requiring multi-day workshops. 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 site 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.

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.  

PAME Assessment Review Report

OCPP has worked with the Government of Belize and Belize’s non-governmental organisations (NGOs) involved in protected area management, to review the current PAME assessment methodologies including the NPAS-MEE, that have been used across Belize’s MPA network.

The resulting report Recommendations for Protected Area Management Effectiveness Assessments in Belize’s marine environment, introduces Belize’s marine environment and the measures currently in place to help protect it. The report then reviews the common PAME assessment tools used and provides recommendations. The recommendations will support the Government of Belize to continue to improve their assessments and ensure a consistent, streamlined approach across the network, with results that can be easily communicated to meet a range of needs. 

OCPP would like to take the opportunity once again to thank the in-country partners, including representatives from various government departments, NGOs and other stakeholders, for their contributions to the report.

PAME Recommendation: National Assessment Tool Planning Workshop

To further support the Government of Belize to implement the recommendations identified in the “Recommendations for Protected Area Management Effectiveness Assessments in Belize’s marine environment review report, OCPP have developed specific recommendations for an NPAS-MEE planning workshop. It is included as an annex to the main report. The content, which has been developed in partnership with the Government of Belize, has identified the next steps needed to ensure the recommendations are delivered successfully and take into account related programmes of work occurring within Belize. 


Stakeholder Mapping

Due to Belize’s world leading work in conservation, as well as their incredible marine and terrestrial habitats, there are a wide range of stakeholders working in the conservation sector. This includes government departments (both from the Government of Belize and other country governments) and national and international non-governmental organisations.

OCPP has worked with the Government of Belize to help identify the key stakeholders working within the marine environment, along with information on their roles and remits. The stakeholder mapping will support the Government of Belize to review the wide range of stakeholders who contribute to the conservation sector in Belize.


Data Review

Belize collects a huge wealth of data, both within MPAs and in their wider marine environment. OCPP is working with the Belize stakeholders to identify what data is currently being collected within its MPAs, how it is processed, stored, and shared. This will allow the Government of Belize to better understand any gaps in data collection, processing and sharing that need further support and resources. This will support more efficient data collection, reporting and decision making, especially as Belize moves towards Green Listing several of its MPAs.


Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated Fishing (IUU)

OCPP is working with the Government of Belize to develop a IUU risk profile report 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 where new technologies may help monitoring and enforcement. Further pilot work is also underway to test whether Artificial Intelligence (AI) tools may also be a useful tool for Belize.


Case Study: Increasing Capacity of In-Country Partners

In 2022, OCPP funded training two members of the Compliance and Enforcement Team from the Belize Fisheries Department to attend the Regional Security System (RSS) Training Institute for their course on Fisheries Interdiction and Prosecution.  

The aim of the course is to heighten awareness, enhance skills and competence of authorised officers who have responsibility for enforcing laws under Fisheries Acts, Regulations and other supporting administrative polices in the Caribbean region.

The objectives of the course were to train officers in the correct interpretation and application of the law and heighten officers’ awareness of relevant legislation. Officers were trained in court procedure when fisheries evidence is presented, the correct procedures for recording information in relation to an offense, how to compile and document evidence for a case file and Fishing Vessel Regulation and Licensing.

The two members of the Belize Fisheries Compliance and Enforcement team praised the course, the professional networks they made, and highlighted how the ‘course will further assist us in the conservation, management and sustainable utilization of the fisheries resources of our individual states and the Caribbean region’.




Ocean Country Partnership Programme

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