Fishing rights help curb overfishing in Belize

Belizean fisherman Yonardo Cus

Belizean fisherman Yonardo Cus is part of an organized effort to improve fishing management in his country.

Jason Houston


Case study


In an area with limited resources for oversight, fishermen are empowered to be stewards of the fish population’s health.

  • 70% of fishermen report they are catching more fish.
  • Problem

    For decades, Belizean fisheries have been depleted by illegal fishing and overfishing. Driven by short-term needs, fishermen used gear such as gillnets, and the number of fishermen grew unsustainably. Fishermens’ livelihoods suffered — it could take a whole season to catch what used to be a week’s worth of spiny lobster.

  • Solution

    In 2011, we teamed up with local partners and other environmental groups to help local fishermen transition to a different management system. They get dedicated rights to fish, in exchange for respecting vulnerable no-take zones and other regulations. The fishermen collaborate on self-enforcement, submitting catch data for accountability. They also extend the reach of underfunded officials as rangers or custodians.

  • Results

    Fishermen report their catches have gone up, and illegal fishing has dropped 60%. Pleased with the results, thousands of Belizean fisherman asked for a nationwide system of rights-based management. In June of 2016, the government implemented the program nationwide.

  • What’s next?

    We’re working around the world to help sustainable fishing become the norm, focusing on 12 governments that account for a majority of the world’s catch. Your support can help us end overfishing.