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Exploring the Blue Economy in Belize

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The 2016/17 MAR-L cohort of fellows with speakers and staff at the course. Photo credit: Mélina Soto

In July, the 2016 Fellows cohort of the Mesoamerican Reef Leadership (MAR-L) program gathered one final time in Belize City, Belize. This fourth and final training course included two days of economic concepts and tools taught by CSF’s Training Director, Kim Bonine, and a third day dedicated to guest speaker presentations and Fellows’ project feedback.

Kim presented half-day modules on four topics: Conservation Finance, Sustainable Business Planning, Economic Impact Analysis, and Fisheries Planning & Management. The Conservation Finance module outlined the diverse strategies we have to generate resources for conservation. Kim explained the various finance mechanisms used, and emphasized that successful strategies are those that have a detailed plan, involve all the key players, and foster collaboration and trust.

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Kim Bonine explains ecosystem services. Photo credit: Mélina Soto

The second half of the day was dedicated to sustainable business planning. Kim presented the Canvas methodology and the "the green business plan" guide, and discussed market segmentation, value proposition, distribution channels, customer relations, income streams, key resources, operations, and strategic partners.

On the second day, Kim led participants through economic impact analysis. This type of analysis looks at how money from a project or activity flows through an economy by identifying direct and indirect, impacts, leakage, and multiplier effects. This methodology shows how the activities of different sectors of the economy are linked, and how long money from a particular activity circulates through an economy before it leaks out via imported goods and services. The session ended with participants doing a hands-on Excel exercise exploring flow-on effects and leakage from tourism in their own regions.

In the afternoon, Kim presented a session on fisheries management and policy. The session began with a review of the key concepts of fisheries bioeconomics, including carrying capacity, states of equilibrium, maximum sustainable yield, open access effort, and the drivers of overfishing. She then went into the pros and cons of different regulatory and management approaches including subsidies, price floors, gear restrictions, total allowable catch, quotas, spatial reserves, and community management. Through experimental games demonstrating game theory, trust and property rights, the Fellows gained an appreciation for the importance of understanding economic and behavioral incentives for successful fisheries management and policy.

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Participants understand the effects of various fishing regulation strategies via a game. Photo credit: Mélina Soto

On the third day, Larry Epstein from Environmental Defense Fund presented their work on fisheries management in Belize, and Eric Bjorkstedt from NOAA Fisheries shared his work on fisheries oceanography and Marine Protected Areas planning in California. Kirah Forman, 2011 MAR Fellow, also gave a presentation about Belize’s Hol Cahn Marine Reserve, the first in Belize and the site of a field trip the next day.

The following MAR Fellows presented their project proposals to their peers and panel experts for feedback during the workshop:

  • Stuart Fulton (Mexico) - Securing a successful future for fish refuges in the Mexican Caribbean
  • Diana Vasquez (Honduras) - Improving the business model of artisanal fisheries, based on the Blue Economy
  • Isabel Martinez (Belize) - Securing the traditional use of the Belizean sailing fleet and fisher’s livelihoods in a dynamic global market via a Blue Economy approach
  • Julio Maaz (Belize) - Implementing Traceability Systems in Fishing Industry to increase the value of the sector, the sustainability of the industry and the resilience of the ecosystem and people

It has been a great pleasure to get to know the 2016 cohort of MAR Fellows, see their work progress, and provide them with economic tools that will help in their efforts to preserve the vitality and health of the Mesoamerican reef via a Blue Economy approach. We would like to thank the MAR Leadership program and Fondo Mexicano para la Conservación de al Naturaleza (FMCN) for their partnership throughout the past year. We wish the best of luck to the 2016 cohort of Fellows!