Dive Master and Dive Site Project
Dive Master and Dive Site Project
Friends of Nature (FoN) grew out of the Community-Based Organization (CBO) known as Friends of Laughing Bird Caye (FOLBC), which came into existence in 1991. The organization is made up of representatives of five communities: Hopkins, Seine Bight, Independence, Monkey River and Placencia, all located in the central/southern region of Belize. Several individuals started FOLBC; including fishermen, tour guides, and hotel owners, particularly from the Placencia Peninsula area, who became concerned about certain occurrences taking place in the area. Firstly, that Laughing Bird Caye, a traditional site for fishing camps for fishermen from the surrounding communities, was being leased or sold to private individuals. During this time, several other cayes that had served as camping sites for the fishermen were being sold to private investors and were becoming off limit as fishing camps for the fishermen. Secondly, fishermen, particularly from Honduras and Guatemala, were using fishing methods such as lobster nets and other nets, breaking of corals to reach lobsters, and harvesting of undersize products, that were destroying the area. Thirdly, as tourism began to increase both nationally and locally, the people began to realize the value of Laughing Bird Caye as an attractive, easily accessible tourist destination. Fishermen at this time were also beginning to realize that what had at one time seemed like impossible to deplete marine resources were swiftly dwindling, particularly conch and lobster. All these occurrences played an important role in the formation of the CBO named Friends of Laughing Bird Caye.

FOLBC lobbied Government for the declaration of Laughing Bird Caye as a Protected Area. In 1991 the area was declared and later extended in 1996. In 1998 it was declared one of the seven marine protected area within the World Heritage Site. In 2002, the name was changed to Friends of Nature as the organization amalgamated with Friends of Placencia Lagoon and took on responsibilities for the Gladden Spit and Silk Caye Marine Reserve. FoN is officially registered under the 206 Companies Act of Belize. The thirteen-member Board of Directors is made up of representatives of major interest groups and stakeholders from the region including tourism, fishermen, the business community and the Chairperson of each of the five village councils.

A study of the history of these five communities will show one of historical co-existence between the people of this area and their marine ecosystems. Knowledge of the sea, with its accompanying folklores, have been handed down from generation to generation as many young men and women use the sea as a rite of passage from adolescence to adulthood. As marine resources continue to dwindle, individuals who historically earned their livelihood from fishing have more and more turned their attention to tourism. Given that the reefs and waters of Belize constitute the prime attractions for tourists, this endeavour sought by FoN through this project is a logical choice for fishermen given their natural skills in boat handling and their knowledge of good fishing and diving areas. Many local fishermen have in fact successfully opened dive and sports fishing businesses particularly in the Placencia area.

As Government continues to emphasize tourism development and marketing, resulting in a rise in tourists to the country, organizations like FoN have began to look at ways to better prepare the local communities to take advantage of the new opportunities that comes with this developing industry. It must be noted that this project is the first in a series of projects that FoN expects to conduct in the five communities under its organization umbrella. There are plans to train, in collaboration with the Belize Tourism Board, guides in fly fishing and kayaking.

The two goals of this project are to train local fishermen, who have traditionally used the Belize Barrier Reef Reserve System (BBRRS) for their livelihood, in an environmentally sustainable economic activity that makes use of their skills and knowledge, and to develop an alternative dive site that will help to ease the pressures on the traditional dive sites within the park. The objectives of the project is:

1. To enhance fishermen’s earnings through providing them with a skill needed in the growing tourism industry.
2. To provide training in a skill that because of high cost, has been kept out of the reach of most of the locals reef users.
3. To take pressures off fishing areas and species such as conch, lobster and spawning aggregations
4. To create an alternative income generating activity for fishermen of the area that will allow them to diversify their income base and increase their income

This project came about as a result of consultations with the communities in the early fact-finding phase of COMPACT, and later through consultations funded through the use of a planning grant from COMPACT for the specific purpose of informing the targeted communities. Through these consultations, this project has received full support and cooperation from the communities. Trainees will contribute their time. Trainers will train five individuals for free, as a part of their contribution and will act as an evaluation committee even after the project is completed. The business community has contributed the vessel that will be sunk as a dive site and local divers will contribute time and skills during the process of sinking the vessel. FoN will be using its boats and other equipments, staff time and skills are also necessary to make this project a success.

This project falls within the scope of the Belize COMPACT Programme Strategy, particularly as it focuses on the training of “resource users to manage visitors in ways that limit or reduce their negative impact (Page 40).” This is a project that will have long-term positive effect on the economics of this area. FoN will follow this project by offering additional training in Customer Relations, Small Business Management and by involving participants and others in Exchange Programs with other NGO’s both nationally and internationally.

This Project is estimated to cost US$98,000, of which US$49,700 is being requested from COMPACT. These funds will be used to hire six Dive Instructors, five male and one female, to train twenty individuals. Four individuals will be represented from each of the five communities.
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Project Snapshot

Friends of Nature
Area Of Work:
Grant Amount:
US$ 49,611.00
Co-Financing Cash:
Co-Financing in-Kind:
US$ 47,875.00
Project Number:
Satisfactorily Completed
Project Characteristics and Results
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Grantee Contact

Mr. Lindsay Garbutt
Phone: 501– 523-3377


Placencia Village

SGP Country office contact

Mr. Leonel Requena
(501) 822-2462


UNDP Belize,3rd Floor, Lawrence Nicholas Building Complex ,P.O. Box 53,South Ring Road,
Belmopan, Central America