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Marine Spatial Planning: the process to develop sustainable use of marine resources in Belize begins

Posted: Wednesday, October 19, 2022. 9:31 pm CST.

By Aaron Humes: The Government of Belize and The Nature Conservancy (TNC) have launched Belize’s Marine Spatial Planning process, which over the next five years brings together multiple users of the ocean – including energy, industry, government, conservation and recreation – to make informed and coordinated decisions about how to use marine resources sustainably.

The process to determine the optimal distribution of human activities across marine areas to achieve the country’s ecological, economic, and social objectives is intended to be public, inclusive and participatory, especially considering our high dependence on marine resources whether in fishing or tourism, for example. The Government promises that it will be guided by the principles of transparency, equity, and inclusivity as well as scientific data and local knowledge to ensure that, ultimately, all Belizeans can benefit now and into the future from Belize’s abundant marine resources.

Beverly Wade, Director of the Blue Bond and Finance Permanence Unit under the Office of the Prime Minister, states that “The Launch of the MSP signals Belize’s commitment to the rational and wise use of its marine natural capital and solidifies its leadership at the global level in finding innovative ways to balance conservation and development. The MSP process will build upon Belize’s decades of experience in marine resource management and increase public participation to ensure equal access and opportunities from our rich natural heritage for the benefit of all Belizeans.”

The process will be led by a multi-stakeholder Steering Committee, comprising government, non-government, and private sector representatives and chaired by the Coastal Zone Management Authority and Institute (CZMAI). The participatory will include but not be limited to consultations, community meetings, an electronic information clearinghouse, and the media.

Chantalle Samuels, Chief Executive Officer of the CZMAI, commits that “The process will inform how best Belizeans can derive benefits from our ocean space today into the future through actions that will also protect critical ecosystems. CZMAI will ensure that all communities and sectors with vested interests in the coastal and marine environments are able to participate meaningfully in the MSP process so that together we can protect biodiversity, achieve economic prosperity and safeguard our heritage.”

The newly formed Steering Committee began its work with a two-day workshop on September 28 and 29 to define the vision, goals, and objectives for the MSP.

The development of a legally enforceable Marine Spatial Plan is one of Belize’s principal commitments under the Blue Bond Loan Agreement and the Conservation Funding Agreement with TNC. These agreements specify the terms of the US$364 million debt conversion for marine conservation, which was signed in November 2021. Thus, this official launch marks a milestone achievement under the Conservation Funding Agreement.


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