Belize Collecting Permits

Belize Collecting

Maynard Schaus (

During Jan. 2012 we obtained a permit to collect daddy
long-legs from the ministry of forestry.  It was a big hassle, but ended
up working out in the end.  For other terrestrial animal and plant species,
you would go through the forestry office.
For marine specimens, you apply to the fisheries department in Belize
City, who may do things differently.  I
have heard that a permit to import sport fish is fairly easy, but coral or
CITES listed species would be much more difficult.  I have also collected mangrove leaves from
near Ambergris Caye and imported them with no problem, as long as they were dry
(no permit was necessary).

In general, plan on
at least 4-6 months advance notice
to get the paperwork submitted via
e-mail, and consider devoting a day to
getting the permits once you are in the country
.  It may be quicker than that, but you can
always add a side trip if you have the time set aside or you can get your Maya
Island air tickets after the permit stuff is finalized.  We also had to send our application to
several people, in some cases multiple times.
We sent both an electronic and a paper copy, and still had to send a
second copy later via e-mail.

In addition to starting this well in advance, you need to
(nicely) bug them regularly, including the government officials and any
officials from the site where you will be collecting, such as the Belize Audubon
society.  This will let you ensure that
everything will be set and will run smoothly when you get there.  I would
send a letter to the contact on their web site and any people that are listed
that would possibly be overseeing the permitting process.  If you send it
to multiple people, you increase the odds that someone will act on it or
forward it to the right person.  If e-mail does not seem to work well,
don’t hesitate to call them and get information about who specifically you
should talk to.

If you collect from private land, you are supposed to have a
letter from that person authorizing you to be there and collect.  If you collect from public reserves that are
managed by Belize Audubon or some other agency, you are supposed to get the
permission of that agency, or at least have them consult on the approval of
your permit.  To collect from other areas
(like coral reefs or mangrove islands) it should be a lot easier, especially if
it is not owned or if the area is not protected.

Make sure that your application is clear and concise.  If you apply to have students help you, I
would omit them entirely, since you need their names, passport information, a
justification of their qualifications, etc. 6 months in advance, and the list
of students could change.  It is much
easier to list yourself as the principal investigator and leave any others off
the permit, unless they are a full collaborator.  If you give a location, describe it
precisely, as it is not enough to give the town or district.  Google Earth can help you provide GPS
coordinates of where you intend to sample, or you can name the protected area
or dive site.

Know the rules for the species you are importing and make
sure that you proceed accordingly.  For
the mangrove samples, I had to make sure they were dried, and I called the USDA
to make sure that this was sufficient.
For some things, you will need an APHIS permit, and CITES species will
need extra permission.  Be sure that you
find out what specifically is needed well in advance.  Be prepared for problems, because they most
likely will occur.  We had them question
why we hadn’t filled out a camping permit (we were staying in guest
houses).  At least they had read the application
thoroughly.  Finally, if you get a permit
– make the most of it.  We are taking a
second trip this summer, because our permit runs through the end of the year.