Enhancing management in a marine protected area through strengthened partnerships

Published: 18 July 2023
Last edited: 18 July 2023
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Cayman Crown reef is a multi species fish spawning aggregation (FSA) site overlapping the maritime borders between Guatemala and Belize. Located within the Sapodilla Cayes Marine Reserve (SCMR), the reef is considered a biodiversity hotspot with an urgent need for improved management. The Toledo Institute for Development and Environment (TIDE) - a non-governmental organization - has been working with the Ministry of Blue Economy and Civil Aviation (MBECA) and the Belize Fisheries Department (BFD) to improve management at the site by developing a national co-management framework for marine protected areas, drafted by the Government of Belize. Delays with the implementation of the co-management framework have hindered the effective protection of the reef. Through a strengthened relationship with MBECA and BFD, a MOU was signed in October 2022 designating TIDE as co-managers of Cayman Crown, and two other established FSA sites within SCMR. TIDE aims to obtain full co-management of SCMR by the end of 2023.


Central America
Scale of implementation
Coral reef
Marine and coastal ecosystems
Connectivity / transboundary conservation
Species management
Loss of Biodiversity
Conflicting uses / cumulative impacts
Unsustainable harvesting incl. Overfishing
Sustainable development goals
SDG 14 – Life below water
Aichi targets
Target 11: Protected and conserved areas


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Enhancing the management of the Cayman Crown reef by designating TIDE as the co-manager of the site, addresses the following challenges:


  • Cayman Crown, Rise and Fall Bank, and Nicholas Caye are all FSA sites, whether established or non-established. These sites serve as fish replenishment zones, safeguarding the reproductive capacity of fish species in the region through the protection of important fish species and their habitats.


  • The transboundary nature of the site unfortunately facilitates illegal activity in the area – in terms of illegal entry, extraction of resources, and use of prohibited fishing gear. By increasing the presence of enforcement officers, it is anticipated that violators are less inclined to continue using the area, reducing the fishing pressure.


Coastal communities across Belize are highly dependent on fishing as a source of income and for food security. Enhancing the management of the site guarantees healthy fishery resources for the local population for years to come.

How do the building blocks interact?

Strengthened partnerships, as well as institutional experience and financial capacity enable the effective management of MPAs.


Recent studies at the Cayman Crown reef have demonstrated the reef's resilience to environmental pressures, as well as its importance to the Mesoamerican Reef System as a biodiversity hotspot. Enhancing management efforts at the reef site will reduce fishing pressure, resulting in healthy populations of fish and coral ecosystems, as well as increased food security in the region.


Considered a transboundary site, the Cayman Crown reef is highly impacted by illegal fishing and the use of unsustainable or illegal fishing gear, mainly from fishers from neighboring countries. The MOU granting TIDE co-management of the site allows greater presence of rangers to conduct surveillance and protection of the reef. In the coming months, TIDE anticipates a decrease in the number of fishers illegally extracting resources from the reef, as well as a decrease in the use of unsustainable or illegal fishing gear. This will be achieved through augmenting the knowledge of local users on the importance of the site and the need for its protection, whilst rangers are on patrol.

Contributed by

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Cecilia Guerrero Toledo Institute for Development and Environment