Properly managing protected areas and resources requires input from stakeholders. That is why TIDE organizes regular meetings with fishers, the Belize Fisheries Department and Managed Access Officers to manage Port Honduras Marine Reserve (PHMR). The most recent stakeholder meeting featured research updates, fishers’ opinions and an important discussion regarding future regulations within PHMR.
During an opening icebreaker exercise, all those present at the meeting stood in a circle and took turns sharing what was on their mind.
TIDE Executive Director Mrs. Celia Mahung opened the meeting with an icebreaker exercise, asking each fisher to share what was on his or her mind regarding PHMR, establishing a light and open mood for this discussion-based meeting. TIDE Science Director James Foley updated those present on the current status of the commercial fisheries based on recent results from TIDE’s 2015 research and monitoring work and took note of the fishers’ own observations. This regular exchange of information between the researchers and fishers is critical in fisheries monitoring. In addition, the group then discussed plans to realign the Replenishment Zones (RZs), those areas where no fishing is allowed, within the reserve.
Open discussion is important at these meetings; here, a fisher shares his thoughts with the group.
The proposed changes are based on concerns from researchers and rangers that not enough of the right habitat is protected for commercial species of concern and the current RZ boundaries are not clear enough for enforcement. The new areas will be rectangular so that the boundaries can be more easily marked and fishers and rangers alike will be able to clearly identify the RZ from the General Use Zone. In this meeting, fishers were asked to provide their input so an agreeable solution can be reached. Those present expressed concerns that the new areas would encroach on currently used fishing areas, so TIDE worked with the fishers to delineate an area that protects important habitats while allowing fishing access and maximizing enforceability.
TIDE Executive Director Mrs. Celia Mahung addresses the stakeholders present at the meeting.
There are often many challenges that arise when managing resources like the commercial fisheries in PHMR; however, involving each group that utilizes its resources in the process is essential. Each group holds its own concerns but also provides important knowledge. Incorporating each stakeholder’s input in every management decision is one way in which TIDE takes resource management to the next level and what has made our approach so successful!