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Belize and the UK collaborating on Marine Biodiversity Ambitions

Posted: Tuesday, April 16, 2024. 3:49 pm CST.

Press Release

Belize is recognised globally as a world leader in marine conservation and is continually striving to improve its marine ecosystems as it faces unprecedented pressures from climate change. 

The UK government’s Ocean Country Partnership Programme (OCPP) has been working with the Belize government and other organisations to provide technical assistance and funding to Belize to help achieve its marine conservation ambitions at a Marine Protected Area (MPA) network level. OCPP’s MPA work has primarily been directed by the Ministry of Blue Economy and Disaster Risk Management whose remit is to enhance Belize’s blue economy through responsible ocean heritage use. 

Belize has adapted the globally used Management Effectiveness Tacking Tool (METT) to suit Belize’s specific needs when reporting on the management effectiveness of its protected area network. The OCPP team completed an overarching review of the both the National Protected Area System- Management Effectiveness Evaluation (NPAS-MEE) and site level assessments, collating information on MPAs and providing recommendations to streamline the processes. The programme also funded a Belizean organisation, Wildtracks, to complete the site level NPAS-MEE assessments on 14 of its MPAs in 2023 on behalf of the Belize Fisheries Department, to ensure they were completed ahead of the next NPAS-MEE assessment that is run every 5 years. 

To ensure its MPAs are meeting global best practice, Belize also has a goal, as identified in the Belize Blue Bond, to begin the Green Listing process for at least three of its MPAs. OCPP has contracted the IUCN Protected and Conserved Areas team to provide support to Belize, introducing the Green Listing processes to Belize government and NGO co-managers, completing rapid assessments on 14 MPAs to identify how close they are to meeting the Green Listing standard and providing recommendations to tackle any gaps. The programme has also set up the Expert Assessment Group for the Green Listing (EAGL) which will advise Belize colleagues as they enter into the formal process of Green Listing. 

The management and monitoring of Belize’s MPAs are critical in ensuring they meet global best practice. The OCPP team is undertaking a critical, independent review of the Managed Access Programme (zonal fisheries management within Belize’s waters) on behalf of the Belize Fisheries Department. The programme is also exploring how new technology could support the enforcement of fisheries management and funding 6 members of the Belize Fisheries Compliance and Enforcement team to attend regional Caribbean training on Fisheries Interdiction and Prosecution. 

The OCPP has also reviewed the data collected within Belize’s MPAs to support the streamlining of data collection, analysis and use of indicators and thresholds to report on the condition of marine habitats and species. This work is also informing the development of an MPA focused Project for Finance Permanence Initiative that is underway from World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and The Nature Conservancy (TNC). 

Future work: 

The OCPP team will continue to support Belize at an MPA network level, identifying key indicators and thresholds for protected habitats, species and the threats facing MPAs. Providing support, where needed, to ensure selected MPAs are ready to formally enter the Green Listing process. Beginning to work, with an MPA focus, with Coastal Zone Management Authority and Institute (CZMAI) to support marine spatial data collection and processing to inform their Marine Spatial Planning process. 

The Director of Blue Economy, Ms. Felicia Cruz commented, “Partnering with UK Government under the OCPP has been transformative for our efforts in Belize’s Blue Economy. Through our collaboration, we’ve seen remarkable strides in tackling marine pollution, expanding the management effectiveness of our marine protected areas, and promoting greater sustainable seafood production. Together, we are not just imagining a healthier and more productive ocean, we’re actively creating it.”

The British High Commissioner to Belize, H.E. Nicole Davison remarked, “Through the Ocean Country Partnership Programme funded by the Blue Planet Fund, the UK is pleased to collaborate with our partners in Belize to the support the science to effectively manage its marine resources sustainably and applauds Belize in its continued efforts to be leaders in marine conservation. We are glad to support Belize in achieving its marine conservation targets under the Blue Bonds Agreement and its 30X30 commitments.”

Wider work in the OCPP project in Belize includes:

Cefas is also collaborating with the Belize Agriculture Health Authority (BAHA) and the Ministry of Agriculture to support safe and sustainable aquaculture, improve biosecurity and strengthen regulatory frameworks for animal health and trade.

The OCPP programme is part of the UK government’s commitment to tackling plastic pollution, building on UK scientific expertise.

 

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