Fisher perceptions of Belize's Managed Access program reveal overall support but need for improved enforcement
A major challenge facing global fisheries is gaining support for sustainable management, which is vital for ensuring the longevity of coastal resources for livelihood and ecosystem benefits. Territorial User Rights for Fishing (TURFs) have emerged as a possible solution to overfishing by requiring fishers to report their catch, color-code their vessels, and fish in designated areas. Belize was the first country in the Caribbean to implement TURFs — in a program called “Managed Access” — with two pilot sites opening in 2011 and seven sites added in 2016. This study evaluates the knowledge, attitudes and perceptions of fishers in the Managed Access program, comparing responses between 2014 and 2019. We collaborated with the Belize Fisheries Department and two local conservation organizations to administer surveys to 362 fishers in 2014 and 123 fishers in 2019, from ten communities in southern Belize. Overall, fishers in both years understood the requirements for acquiring and renewing their licenses, but in 2019, significantly more fishers understood the logbook reporting requirement and the benefits of having tenure rights than those in 2014. 69% of respondents from 2019 support the program in the long run, but 62% report observing illegal fishing behavior. These data suggest a need to educate fishers about the benefits of accurate catch reporting, improve enforcement, and develop fisher empowerment programs, while also guiding management decisions on a national scale. Although the Managed Access program in Belize is fairly new, the lessons learned can be applied to other small-scale fisheries contexts.
Alves, CL; Garcia, OD; Kramer, RA
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