Sustainable Fisheries

© Oscar AlvarezFishing is probably the most socially and economically important activity for many coastal communities in the MAR region, with the average annual consumption of fishing products calculated at as much as 15 kilos per person. In the last decade, however, catches have decreased by 35%, despite the consistent effort, and as the key commercial species such as lobster, conch, snappers and groupers are already fully exploited (and perhaps overexploited), more and more fishers now require additional or alternative sources of income.

This component worked towards enabling fishers and managers of these resources, to:

  • Work alongside other organisations to undertake a more diverse approach towards improving fisheries management at a local and regional scale.
  • Increase the ability of fishing organisations to control access and fishing effort through co-management with other stakeholders, primarily local management authorities.
  • Gain the support of national institutions and ensure the integration and involvement of fishers in the monitoring and surveillance of the resource, and development of regional management plans.
  • Build upon the experience and lessons learned from existing community based fisheries management and income diversification projects within the MAR, and use them as models for replication with other communities requesting assistance.

Adoption of better fishing practices (BFP) and monitoring of their potential effects contribute to localised management efforts. Through this component alone, project partners engaged 56 community stakeholder groups in education and awareness activities on the need to adopt better fishing practices, also providing training in ecological and socioeconomic monitoring of reef health using the Reef Check protocol.

seaweed farming - Shalini Cawich WWFMonitoring results to date reflect the reality and current status of fisheries resources in the MAR region, documenting coral bleaching, and the scarcity of economically important species and reduced population levels of second-order reef fish species like parrot fish and snappers. Besides creating a scientific baseline on the current trends of reef health on the region, this data collection process not only serves to document the status of reefs, but also empowers the communities and raises local awareness and supports localised management efforts. Reef Checks approach and extensive network of volunteers is now forever present in the MAR region.

Throughout the life of the project several local communities requested to participate in the initiative supporting the adoption of BFP and expressing their interest in engaging in sustainable and profitable alternative economic livelihoods. This is indicative of how much local communities become aware of the significance and potential of their contribution to maintaining healthy reef ecosystems.


  • How to Profit by Practicing Sustainable Fishing: Lobster Fishing Practices Guidelines for the Mesoamerican Reef (Pdf) – Eng / Esp
  • Fisheries Plasticized Cards – Esp
  • Best Fishing Practices in Coral Reefs – EBFM Manual (Pdf) – Esp
  • Whale Shark Watching Toolbox. April 2007 (Pdf) – Esp


Links to useful resources on this component:

  • Mesoamerican Barrier Reef System Project:
  • Comisiуn Centroamericana de Ambiente y Desarrollo (CCAD):
  • Programa Ambiental Regional para Centroamйrica (USAID-PROARCA):
  • WWF Mexico:
  • The Nature Conservancy:
  • Wildlife Conservation Society:
  • Green Reef:
  • Belize Fishermen Cooperative Association (BFCA):

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