COMPONENT 1: Improving the protection regime of marine and coastal ecosystems
The project outcome under Component 1 is as follows:
- MPAs and replenishment zones expanded and secured in strategically selected locations; and
The project outcomes will be monitored with the following outcome indicators:
- The target MPAs are effectively managed as recorded by the Management Effectiveness Tracking Tool;
- At least 3 restored coral sites, with resilient varieties grown in coral nurseries, within TAMR and SWCMR by the end of the project (with each site measuring 300 m2); and
- 75% of coastal developments adhering to the development guidelines set by the ICZM Plan;
The activities under Component 1 are grouped into the four subcomponents. Subcomponent activities will be implemented over a five-year period. Some activities are designed to be implemented in one year, while others are designed to be multi-year activities. The subproject activities are listed under each category.
1.2.1 Realignment and expansion of replenishment zones and management areas within selected MPAs (TAMR, SWCMR and CBWS). Turneffe Atoll was legally declared a marine reserve (November 2012) during the preparation of this Project. By its designation, Belize’s MPA system has been expanded to about 20% of Belize’s territorial sea. With the Fisheries Department as the technical lead, the Project will refine and demarcate the newly designated boundary. The Project will also support an expansion of the Corozal Bay Wildlife Sanctuary (CBWS) and realignment of fully-protected (non-extractive) zones for Turneffe Atoll Marine Reserve, South Water Caye Marine Reserve and Corozal Bay Wildlife Sanctuary to obtain a national increase of fully protected replenishment zones from an existing 2% to 3.1% of Belize’s territorial sea. The project will achieve these through the following subcomponent activities:
- Spatially mapping and analyzing selected MPAs for realignment or expansion (Year 1) – Geographic Information Systems (GIS) and remote sensing tools will be sourced and used to spatially map and analysed the targeted MPAs boundaries’ expansion and realignment. Corozal Bay Wildlife Sanctuary (CBWS), in particular, will be re-mapped as recommended in the National Protected Areas Rationalization report to include part of the northern coastal lagoon system and saline savannah. The overall expansion or refinement process for the targeted MPAs will take into strong consideration the inclusion of such ecosystems as rapidly disappearing littoral forest and beach vegetation, some national cayes (particularly national cayes and inundated mangroves on Turneffe) that through research and monitoring have been found to exhibit crucial structural components that allow for quick recovery or resilience to climate disturbances (e.g., increased sea surface temperatures), and refugia-areas that experience less change than others. Protection of functional groups, keystone species, and representative habitats (e.g., coral reefs across depth gradient, mangroves, seagrass beds, lagoon systems, and fish spawning aggregation sites) will be prioritized. Major features will be highlighted that could promote the replenishment of fisheries and restoration of ecosystem balance.
- Field verification of spatial mapping activities via ground-truthing (Year 1) – Once drafted, the newly proposed expansion or realignment maps for the targeted MPAs will be ground-truthed to gather field data to test the accuracy of the maps. The ground-truth will aid verification of the image data (maps and remote sensing data) to real features on the ground.
- Carrying out consultations with communities and stakeholders to obtain feedback on the revised zoning (Years 1 to 5) – The Project will take a participatory process with stakeholders (in particular fisher households) to share the new zoning scheme for the targeted MPAs and to resolve existing and potential conflicts with respect to the proposed management schemes. The approach will be strategic, inclusive (e.g., stakeholder involvement in decision-making processes), creative, and flexible to allow for addressing traditional uses of the areas, existing threats (inside and outside MPAs), and climate change stresses. In the case of Corozal Bay Wildlife Sanctuary (CBWS) which currently lacks a zoning scheme and has traditionally allowed fishing activities, consultations will be carried out to discuss a review of the CBWS classification to address zoning for extractive and non-extractive activities.
- Compiling and incorporating feedback from consultations and baseline data into finalization of zoning maps for selected MPAs (Year 2) – Information collected through consultations, literature review and independent assessments will be compiled and utilized to aid finalization of the zoning maps.
- Incorporating finalized zoning maps for selected MPAs into the respective management plans for selected MPAs (Year 2) – The new maps reflecting the expansion or realignment for each of the selected MPAs will be incorporated into existing management plans for the MPAs and the respective management plans will be adjusted textually to reflect the new zoning scheme. The legislation (Statuary Instruments) for each of the select MPAs will also be revised to adequately reflect the new boundaries.
- Re-demarcation of selected MPAs as per the new boundaries (Years 2 to 5) – The three selected MPAs will be appropriately demarcated with buoys and signs to conspicuously depict the new boundaries. Achieving adherence to the new zoning will not happen unless stakeholders can understand the benefits of them and are made part of the process in delineating the expanded or realigned MPA boundaries. The process to involve affected stakeholders will be further addressed in Component 2 and 3 of the project.
1.2.2. Promoting effective management of selected MPAs including its replenishment zones. With the Fisheries Department as the technical lead, the project will support management of the targeted MPAs particularly in the areas listed below. The Sarteneja Alliance for Conservation and Development (SACD) will coordinate management activities within the CBWS.
- Strengthen surveillance, monitoring and enforcement in the three MPAs, including within replenishment zones (Years 2 to 5) – The project will build and strengthen co-management partnerships for effective management of the target MPAs and ensure that they are adequately equipped with the skilled staff, resources and tools necessary for effective management. The project will support strengthening enforcement and surveillance, and biological monitoring, including construction of a ranger station, new pier, and watchtower/base station at SWCMR, procurement of field equipment such as boats for patrolling, equipment and supplies for biological and socioeconomic field monitoring, and data analysis (e.g., laptop computers to store and analyze data, patrol register system, among others). Enforcement is a crucial component of the MPA’s management system and as such clearly defined enforcement guidelines and procedures (as guided by MPA management and operational plans) will be developed and implemented in order to: 1) help improve monitoring, surveillance and compliance of the MPA thus benefiting the MPA management; 2) allow enforcement staff to act according to the guidelines and procedures; and 3) reduce the possibility of legal action against the MPA management by rule breakers. The project will support a revision of existing enforcement guidelines and procedures for the three MPAs to ensure that they are implemented in a fair and equitable manner, and provide training for enforcement staff where needed.
- Biological and water quality monitoring of strategic and control sites (representing coral reefs, coral restoration sites, mangroves, and seagrass beds) as per MPA management plans (Years 2 to 5) – Monitoring and enforcement information for the three targeted MPAs will be routinely collected, compiled, verified and stored within an appropriate database system for regular analysis. A comprehensive operational and monitoring plan for each of the MPAs will be developed and implemented to guide systematic collection of management information and data (e.g., climate, biophysical, socioeconomic, and governance). Routine and robust biological and water quality monitoring of strategic and control sites (representing coral reefs, coral restoration sites, mangroves, and seagrass beds) within MPAs will be conducted to determine how each target ecosystem is being affected and how to improve the management strategy to maintain their ecological health and climate resilience. Monitoring of commercial fishing resources will also be carried out to evaluate the impact of the implementation of sustainable management practices (such as managed access) at the MPAs. Data collection and field work will be coordinated with the CZMAI in relation to the implementation of the ICZM Plan.
- Carrying out formal effectiveness assessments to track management success (Years 2 and 4) – An independent management effectiveness assessment, focusing on analysis of biophysical, socioeconomic and governance indicators, will be carried out bi-annually (in year 2 and year 4) with scores recorded within a management effectiveness tracking tool. Findings will be fed back to the MPAs’ management procedures to make improvements and adjustments where needed so that conservation goals can be met.
1.2.3. Re-population of coral reefs. With the Fisheries Department as the technical lead, pilot investments will be made into repopulating reefs within replenishment zones of targeted MPAs with temperature resilient coral varieties. This will be achieved through:
- Ground-truthing to identify reefs suitable for nurseries set-up and outplanting (Year 1) – Two of the three target MPAs (TAMR and SWCMR) will be thoroughly ground-truthed in order to identify suitable areas for construction of coral nursery tables for propagating corals for outplanting. Potential areas for outplanting within target MPAs replenishment zones will also be identified and recorded. An external consultant will be hired as the Principal Investigator to help lead this effort with active participation by MPA staff.
- Establishment of coral nurseries (Years 1 and 2) – At least six coral nursery tables will be constructed per MPA and in accordance to findings from the ground-truthing efforts. At least four fishermen will be hired and trained to support construction and installation of nursery tables in the sea. MPA staff biologists and rangers will be trained to enable their routine monitoring of corals within nurseries.
- Out-planting in selected reefs (Years 2 to 5) – Coral colonies propagated within nurseries will be outplanted to locales identified in the ground-truthing. The process will be led by a Principal Investigator (external consultant) and 20-30 fishermen will be hired to participate in the outplanting efforts. Fishermen will be trained in coral outplanting techniques prior to their participation in the outplanting efforts. MPA biologist and rangers will be trained in monitoring techniques to track the health and status of outplanted corals as well as progress towards the building of reef resilience. The monitoring of coral reef resiliency will also be linked to climate stations that are being established by the CCCCC at TAMR and SWCMR.
1.2.4. Promoting effective management of Belize’s MPA network and the coastal zone. The Coastal Zone Management Authority and Institute (CZMAI) is in the process of finalizing the national integrated coastal zone management (ICZM) Plan for Belize. The draft ICZM Plan was completed in December 2012 and is currently undergoing an internal review by the CZMAI Advisory Council and Board. The final draft will be tabled to Cabinet in March 2013 for endorsement and approval. CZMAI projects that the Government of Belize will approve the ICZM Plan by June 2013. The plan takes into strong consideration inputs from nine established Coastal Advisory Committees (CACs) and feedback received through broader public consultations. The ICZM Plan lays out proactive and adaptive strategies to facilitate the improved management of coastal and marine resources within a specified timeframe across sectors. The Plan contains prescriptive, area-specific guidance and recommended zoning schemes guided by the strategies. The implementation of the ICZM Plan supported under the MCCAP will promote the coordination and integration of existing legislation, policies and management efforts of all organizations with mandates directly or indirectly related to the coastal and marine environment. Specific subcomponent activities (with the CZMAI as the technical lead) to achieve this outcome include:
- Rolling out of the over-arching legal and institutional framework of PAs – The Project will strengthen the MPA legal framework by supporting the sensitization process of the legal framework for PAs. The Project will also strengthen the MPA institutional framework by supporting the establishment of a national institutional framework for the management of PAs. A draft comprehensive legislation for Belize’s PAs system has been prepared, as well as a proposed administrative structure for the PAs system. This is supported by Belize’s current effort to upgrade legal, financial and institutional framework for the PA system including MPAs to ensure sustainability of the existing national PAs system through a GEF-funded project entitled “Strengthening National Capacities for the Operationalization, Consolidation, and Sustainability of Belize’s PAs System (the SNC Project).
- Revision of mangrove regulations (Year 1) – The project will support efforts to finalize the draft revised mangrove regulations to enable added protection for mangroves. Efforts toward this were carried out in 2009 but the process was not completed. The activity includes key consultations (meetings and focus group discussions), data gathering and literature review toward revising and finalizing the mangrove regulations. This will done under the mandate of the Forest Department and in closely collaboration with the CZMAI, Department of Environment, NGOs and independent research entities to obtain the information and guidance to carry out the necessary revision and finalization of the mangrove regulations.
- Revision of the CZM Act (Year 1 and 2) – The Project will support the revision of the CZM Act to set out the geographical (e.g., the nine planning regions), legal and policy framework within which the ICZM Plan will be implemented. A CZM Act was adopted in 1998 to aid the smooth implementation of an ICZM Strategy. However, this Act is now considered outdated and in need of a comprehensive revision to be able to add legal strength for the implementation of the ICZM Plan. Under this activity, the project will support the hiring of two highly qualified consultants to lead the revision process and production of the revised CZM Act. The project will also support the cost of consultations to obtain feedback to guide revision efforts.
- Implementation of an Integrated Coastal Zone Management Plan (Years 1 to 5) – The ICZM Plan presents critical recommendations for the long-term development of all coastal areas, including development of small, climate vulnerable cayes and of cayes found inside marine reserves. The project will support equipping the CZMAI with the necessary personnel (in-house staff as well as from among Coastal Advisory Committees) and tools to enable monitoring of adherence to recommendations in the ICZM Plan, water quality monitoring and field data collection, compilation and analysis to track health of the coastal systems, and the strengthening of coastal outreach. This will include the procurement of water quality testing and enforcement equipment and supplies, including support to the CACs which play an integral role in the implementation of the ICZM Plan. The CACs are responsible for monitoring the state of the natural environment and wildlife of the coastal zone in each region and activities that may impact them. The CACs will also oversee the drafting and implementation of development guidelines for their particular region. The CACs are intended as partnerships between stakeholders and the CZMAI in the coastal management process. The CACs will facilitate a participatory form of coastal monitoring and resource management planning that aims to reflect the needs and concerns of both local and national interests.
- a) Coastal non-point pollution management. Under the National Environmental Appraisal Committee (NEAC) umbrella, CZMAI will work proactively with the varied permitting management agencies within Belize to ensure that development plans that could affect the health of the coastal ecosystem through pollution run-off, dredging and mining and aquaculture initiatives meet the standards set within the ICZM Plan. CZMAI is a member of the NEAC which reviews, advise and provide clearance for development projects within country (including mangrove clearance, dredging and mining, hotel resorts and aquaculture developments, etc.). CZMAI is strategically positioned within the Ministry of Forest, Fisheries and Sustainable Development (MFFSD), which enhances alliance with the MFFSD and the NEAC to strengthen existing coastal developing licensing and permitting procedures to ensure that they are streamlined and in sync with the recommendations of the ICZM Plan. The active participation of the Coastal Advisory Committees (CACs) within the varied planning regions will lend support to this process through proactive evaluation of project impacts on the ground, and the adherence to the ICZM plan’s guidelines. Support will be given to relevant governmental departments in charge of licensing and permits, and to the CACs to ensure efficient licensing procedures, cross-referencing and monitoring of pertinent license and permit. Alliances will be built with research entities and local NGOs to ensure that biological and socio-economic datasets are appropriately gathered and used to help guide permitting and mitigation actions on the ground. A steering group will be formulated to help spearhead this effort.
- b) Management of the Coastal Zone Development. A wider dissemination of the development guidelines of the ICZM Plan will be carried out. A user friendly and condense version (i.e. booklet and video) of the development guidelines of the ICZM Plan will be developed, published and disseminated within the key coastal planning regions and relevant governmental agencies. The booklet will provide quick and easy access to potential coastal developers on main requirements for carrying out development, including licensing and permitting requirements along Belize’s coasts. They will also be made available to various media, including the CZMAI websites and social media sites (e.g. Facebook). CZMAI will also carry out training for CACs personnel to ensure that they are fully verse with ICZM Plan and their role in its implementation, monitoring and evaluation, as well as developers and local business owners.
The marine protected areas (MPAs) that are targeted under Component 1 are:
- Corozal Bay Wildlife Sanctuary (CBWS)
- Turneffe Atoll Marine Reserve (TAMR)
- South Water Caye Marine Reserve (SWCMR)
Project activities will also benefit the coastal zone. Project funds cannot be used to finance officials’ salary. The project will be used to support project activities, i.e., goods & services, consultants, non-technical services, training, and operating costs for the project management.
The four subcomponent activities in Component 1 are designed to be implemented simultaneously commencing from Year.
Subcomponent 1.2.1 will be implemented in four sequential phases as follows:
- Phase 1: Preparation of map of proposed revised zoning scheme;
- Phase 2: Consultations with communities and stakeholders to obtain feedback on the revised zoning;
- Phase 3: Preparation and incorporation of final revised map;
- Phase 4: Demarcation of target MPAs.
Subcomponent 1.2.3 will be implemented in two sequential phases as follows:
- Phase1: Preparation for coral reef re-population;
- Phase 2: Re-population of selected coral reef sites.
The Government of Belize and NGOs will provide in-kind contribution totaling $0.415 million.