Posted: Wednesday, April 3, 2019. 10:01 am CST.
By BBN Staff: Yesterday, Cabinet approved a joint proposal from the Ministry of Fisheries, Forestry, the Environment and Sustainable Development, and the Ministry of Tourism and Civil Aviation, to increase the area of fisheries replenishment zones in Belize’s waters in order to protect important fish spawning sites and to further ensure the sustainability of the fisheries sector.
Replenishment zones (also referred to as no-take areas) are a globally recognized fisheries management tool used to protect habitats where important biological functions occur, such as spawning, in order to safeguard the reproductive capacity of fish species.
Globally, it is agreed among scientists, practitioners and governments that countries should strive to protect 10% of its waters as no-take areas.
This goal of 10% is articulated under the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal 14 – Life Under Water and is also contained in the Aichi Biodiversity Targets.
Expansion of the replenishment zones in Belize is necessary to address the current challenges facing the national fishery and tourism industries brought about by increasing pressures from an ever-growing number of fishers and is also necessary to avert future challenges such as declining fish stocks.
The total area of Belize’s waters under no-take status will now increase from 4.5% to 11.6%.
The expansion will occur in the open or deep-sea area, with depths ranging from 200m to 3000m.
These areas include the most underrepresented habitats in the current marine protected areas (MPAs) system of Belize. Also included is the expansion of a no-take area into the Exclusive Economic Zone exactly south of the Sapodilla Cayes Marine Reserve to protect the biological functions that take place in the extensive coral reef complex, known as the Corona Reef, at the southwestern terminus of the Cayman Trench.
These new replenishment zones were identified through an evidence-based process led by the Fisheries Department along with Belizean and international scientific partners to ensure the zones protect habitat and life-cycle processes to replenish fisheries stocks.
The zones were determined based on maximizing potential benefits to the national interest while minimizing disruption to the livelihoods and culture of the fishing community.
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