Fishermen in Belize

Sea Around Us co-authored report sheds light on the overexploitation of Belize’s commercially important marine species

Fishermen in Belize

Fishermen in Belize. Reference photo by Laslovarga, Wikimedia Commons.

The most commercially important marine species in Belize show signs of overexploitation, according to a recent report co-authored by members of the Sea Around Us.

The document is the result of one year of research and analyses conducted under the umbrella of the Belize Fisheries Project, launched by The Summit Foundation in 2022 and which also includes experts in healthy reefs and small-scale fisheries from Comunidad y Biodiversidad (COBI), the Environmental Law Institute (ELI), Healthy Reefs for Healthy People Initiative (HRI) and MRAG Americas.

The data collection and analyses, carried out on the Sea Around Us side by Dr. Deng Palomares, and research assistants Sydney Baxter and Vina Parducho, with input from Dr. Daniel Pauly, show that certain stocks, such as those of “star products” queen conch and Caribbean spiny lobster, as well as that of the Nassau grouper, present low carrying capacity driven by high fishing effort.

“The Nassau grouper, for example, has been heavily exploited since the 1920s and the stock is depleted. There have been management interventions to set adequate size limits but they came in too late,” Dr. Palomares said. “In the case of lobster, research by Alexander Tewfik and others shows that there have been dramatic increases in catch in the 21st century with all fishing grounds fully utilized for some time. Although there are replenishment zones, overfishing continues with the landing of immature individuals.”

In addition to conch and lobster, 18 fish species were assessed, mainly snappers and groupers. The results of the assessments are summarized in the infographics below.

[Click ↓ on the bottom left corner of the image to view all the stocks assessed]

Updated infographic Belize stocks_compressed

Besides conducting research, Drs. Palomares and Pauly presented their findings in Belize in a series of workshops held between June 12th and June 16th, 2023. In each of the sessions, they received feedback from local fishers, managers, government representatives and/or NGOs operating in the country.

Workshops with a total of 72 fishers were held in Belize City, Dangriga, and Corozal, while meetings with NGO and government representatives were held in the capital.

The summary report on the stakeholder workshops can be found at this link.