Training and Equipping Fishermen Who Use the Sapodilla Cayes Marine Reserve
Training and Equipping Fishermen Who Use the Sapodilla Cayes Marine Reserve
The Sapodilla Cayes Marine Reserve (SCMR) consists of 14 named cayes and two unnamed ephemeral islands. The SCMR is a site of great geological importance, with a unique J-formation that contains numerous channels and large shoal patches, and provides the second most important nesting site for the Hawksbill marine turtle in Belize. The sea grass bed in the SCMR lagoon is also rich with conch and lobster, while the outer reef represents a significant spawning ground for mutton snapper and grouper.

In February 2001, a co-management arrangement for the Sapodilla Cayes was established between the Fisheries Department and a local NGO, the Toledo Association of Sustainable Tourism and Empowerment (TASTE). The Fisheries Department currently maintains 1 manager, a biologist and 2 rangers within the SCMR on Hunting Caye, and a management plan has been developed for the Reserve. The co-management arrangement remains however, weak in the community integration component identified earlier. This proposal represents the first crucial step of integrating the traditional users of the SCMR, the fishermen, within the SCMR regulatory environment.

For fishermen from Punta Negra and Punta Gorda, two of the principal fishing communities in the Toledo District, Sapodilla Cayes represents a major fishing ground, since it is a primary locus for adult lobster, the most lucrative catch in the industry, and one of the two principal landing sites for mutton snapper, along with Gladden Split further north. Lobsters are caught here, usually by dislodging them during free dives with hook sticks, but also with lobster nets or traps. Fishers themselves acknowledge that coral is often broken off by divers, as also occurs with improper placing of the traps or nets But without alternative livelihood incentives for the fishers, and in the absence of an effective regulatory environment to protect this resource-abundant but highly delicate ecosystem, destructive and disruptive fishing practices continue.

The goal of the project is to improve the marine conservation and ecological integrity in the SCMR by incorporating the missing link in the existing management framework: the traditional users, who with the provision of livelihood alternatives, will voluntarily reduce their impact on the reef, while at the same time becoming active agents in the regulatory process, thereby strengthening the management regime as a whole. Specifically, the project will work through the only fishing cooperative in the Toledo District - the Rio Grande Fishermen Cooperative - to secure its members’ commitment to relocate most of their fishing activity from the immediate coral reef to buffer zones through the provision of additional equipment and training in sustainable fishing practices by way of compensation. Three fishermen/members of the cooperative currently own cayes and live within the reserve, which undoubtedly strategically positions them in their capacity as stewards of the resources. Under the supervision of the SCMR Manager, and in close collaboration with TASTE and the Fisheries Department who have co-management rights over the SCMR, these three fishermen will become trained and formally integrated into the Sapodilla Management Plan and System. Seven other fishers from the RGFC, who will be voluntarily displaced from the reserve to work in buffer marine areas, will also receive training and participate in monitoring the reserve. A management arrangement whereby government, NGOs and communities / traditional users become equal partners in and beneficiaries of the conservation regime in the SCMR/ BBRWHS will therefore have been established.

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Project Snapshot

Rio Grande Fishermen Cooperative Society Ltd
Area Of Work:
Grant Amount:
US$ 50,000.00
Co-Financing Cash:
Co-Financing in-Kind:
US$ 8,500.00
Project Number:
Satisfactorily Completed

Grantee Contact

Victor Jacobs


Corner Queen and Far West Streets
Punta Gorda , Latin America & Caribbean ,

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