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Belize and Mexico Must Address Challenges that Threaten the Flats Fishery and Habitats

Construction on the flats of Belize’s Cayo Rosario. Photo: Dr. Addiel Perez

Until recently, Belize and Mexico have struck a good balance between the development of fisheries, tourism, and conservation. The governments established marine protected areas (MPAS) and implemented regulations to ensure the long-term sustainability of natural resources without jeopardizing livelihoods, local economies, and the health of people and the environment. Indeed, these conservation actions improved livelihoods and economies that depend upon healthy coastal habitats and fisheries. Unfortunately, this harmonious balance is threatened by rapid coastal development, often at the expense of the environment. Today, proposed and ongoing developments do not align with Belize’s and Mexico’s ecotourism models, which will harm local communities and benefit international investors.

The resource management plans of both countries are suffering from outdated policies, a lack of understanding of the importance of healthy habitats and water for fisheries and tourism, increasing lack of integration of management agencies and, most important, lack of inclusion of local stakeholders. Since the countries share coastal resources—bonefish from Mexico, for example, migrate to Belize to spawn—it’s imperative that governing agencies in both countries adjust to the increasing threats to the sustainability of coastal fisheries and livelihoods.

Holistic strategic plans, improved regulations of marine protected areas, rights of local people to resources, and involvement of all users in the decision-making process can all help improve fisheries and protected areas. BTT is working with resource managers of some protected areas, and plans to expand this collaboration. If you are an angler or guide who fishes in Belize or Mexico, making your voice heard is an important part of the process.

To learn more, watch BTT’s video, “Paradise Under Threat,” and read Monte Burke’s article, “Belize’s Blue Economy,” in the spring 2022 issue of Bonefish & Tarpon Journal.