Replenishment Zones Program

Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) are used to manage the impact of human activities on the ecosystems on which we rely for our livelihoods and wellbeing. These areas are divided into zones with specific rules to reduce damage caused to sensitive or important environments by human behavior. Zones may be created to manage boating, fishing, recreational and/or research activities.

In Belize, “replenishment zones” are intended to provide places where fish populations can increase to ensure continued stock for adjacent fishing areas. Currently, no-take, or replenishment zones represent approximately 11.6% of Belize’s territorial sea.  These areas restrict most commercial fishing activities but may permit recreational or sport fishing. “General use zones” are the areas where commercial fishing activities are permitted under certain conditions. Use of spearguns, for example, may be restricted throughout an MPA, regardless of zone.

The effectiveness of these zones in enabling the recovery of fish stocks and damaged or degraded ecosystems can be limited when they are too small, fragmented, or far from each other and lack representation of key habitats that serve as developmental areas in species lifecycle.  When designed properly, replenishment zones have been shown to result in an increase in size and density of fish, improvement in habitats, and improve fishing in surrounding areas.  

The Government of Belize is currently conducting a participatory marine spatial planning exercise, the Belize Sustainable Ocean Plan. This aims to design the optimal distribution of human use across Belize’s ocean. The goal being to strictly protect 30% of Belize’s ocean by 2027.