Fishing rights helped 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
  • 70% of fishermen report they are catching more fish

When resources for oversight are limited, fishermen can be empowered to be stewards of the fish population's health.

  • 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 no-take zones – protected areas where fishing is prohibited – 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 percent. Thousands of Belizean fisherman asked for a nationwide system of rights-based management, which the government implemented in 2016. In March 2018, the government announced it will expand its network of no-take zones from about 3 percent to more than 10 percent by the end of 2018.

  • 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.

Updated: August 2019