FAO Country Profile – Belize Fishery


The main policy objective for the Fisheries Sector is to maintain a sustainable yield of the fisheries resources while continuing to contribute to food production, foreign exchange earnings, to optimize future and present benefits and to improve nutritional status in the longer term (National Food & Agriculture Policy, 2003).

Fisheries Department executes this mandate through its main policy objectives which are to:

  • Encourage and promote sustainable fish production systems in both sea areas and inland fisheries;
  • Diversify production of the underutilized and non traditional fish species in territorial waters so as to reduce pressure on high valued fish;
  • Encourage deep sea fishing to take advantage of Belize’s resources in its deep sea territorial waters;
  • Retain product quality and remain competitive in export markets;
  • Increase value added activities in the production system and fish processing;
  • Stabilize landings for export markets;
  • Maintain maximum economic sustainable yield;
  • Improve management of the ecological systems and the marine environment of fish habitats;
  • Improve the economic and social well-being of the fishers and their communities.

Presently, the fisheries resources are managed through the enactment of Fisheries Regulations which utilize the principles of closed seasons, closed areas, prohibited methods, females and juvenile protection. Below are the main management measures applied to fisheries in Belize.


1) It is illegal for any person to take, buy, sell or have in his possession any type of coral.
2) An exception is made in case of black coral (order ANTIPATHARIA) which may only be bought, sold or exported with a license from the Fisheries Administrator.

Bone Fish

Albula vulpes

Locally known as MACABI- no person shall buy or sell any Bone Fish.


(Penaeus spp)

1) The number of vessels trawling in Belize shall not exceed eight vessels in any given year.
2) Closed Season April 15th – AUGUST 14th, inclusive of any year.


(Strombus gigas)

1) Shell length should exceed 7 inches.
2) Market clean weight should exceed 3 ounces.
3) Closed season is from July 1st -September 30th.


(Panulirus argus)

1) Minimum carapace length is 3 inches.
2) Minimum tail weight is 4 ounces.
3) Closed season is February 15th-June 14th
4) No person shall take berried females or molting individuals.

Marine Turtles

1) No Person shall buy, sell or have in his possession any articles made of turtle shell.
2) No person may take turtle unless with a license from the Fisheries Administrator (traditional use only).
3) No person should interfere with any turtle nest.


(Dermatemys mawii)

1) No person shall have in his possession more than three (3), or transport in/on any vehicle more than five (5), such turtles.
2) No person shall fish for females that are greater than 43 cm (17.2 inches) or
smaller than 38 cm (15 .2 inches).
3) Closed season is May 1st- May 31st, inclusive in any year.

General Regulations

– No Lobster fishing in the fore reef.
– no setting of traps or nets on the reef or the fore reef
– SCUBA equipment is prohibited in any type of fishery

Restriction on the setting of nets as follows:

a. One hundred yard from the reef or the fore reef.
b. At river mouths
c. A half mile in any community
d. In a channel
e. Mesh size regulation
f. Prohibit setting nets and traps in spawning areas
g. Prohibit use of poisons and explosives

Marine Reserves

The Belize Fisheries Department has the legal mandate to declare and manage Marine Reserves, which are one category of Marine Protected Areas (MPA’s) in Belize. To date eight marine reserves have been declared by the Fisheries Department. These reserves are located throughout the coastal seas of Belize and include the: Bacalar Chico Marine Reserve, Hol Chan Marine Reserve, Caye Caulker Marine Reserve, Glovers Reef Marine Reserve, South Water Caye Marine Reserve, Gladden Spit & Silk Cayes Marine Reserve (GSSCMR), Sapodilla Cayes Marine Reserve and Port Honduras Marine Reserve (PHMR). The guiding principle behind the declaration and management of Marine Reserves is to ensure, increase and sustain the productive service and integrity of the marine resources for the benefit of all Belizeans of present and future generations.

The major goal of Marine Reserves is to conserve marine biodiversity by protecting important ecosystem, habitats, and species. This is realized through the implementation of the following activities:

  • Implementing and supporting marine scientific research by providing a natural laboratory;
  • Enhancing capacity building through education, public awareness and collaboration;
  • Mobilizing financial and technical resources for the institutions concerned.

These objectives are realized through the following management actions:

  • providing a refuge from harvesting activities;
  • protecting habitats, especially those critical to lifecycle stages such as spawning, juvenile rearing and feeding;
  • protecting spawning stock biomass, thus enhancing reproductive capacity;
  • protective areas of species, habitats, and ecosystems restoration and recovery;
  • enhancing local and regional fish stocks through increase recruitment and spill over of adults and juveniles into adjacent areas;
  • assisting in conservation-based fisheries management regimes;
  • providing opportunities for scientific research.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *