Turneffe Atoll - Belize
Turneffe Atoll Trust was founded in 2002 as a non-profit 501 (c)(3) organization operating in Belize and the United States.
Our Mission of Turneffe Atoll Trust is to drive conservation efforts at Turneffe Atoll leading to sustainable environmental, social and economic benefits for Turneffe and Belize and serving as a model for similar coastal marine environments throughout the world.
Major successes over the past decade include leading efforts to pass landmark legislation in 2009 designating bonefish, permit and tarpon throughout Belize as CATCH AND RELEASE only species. A critical strategy in achieving this was the economic study funded by Turneffe Atoll Trust entitled, “The Economic Impact of Recreational Fishing for Bonefish, Permit and Tarpon in Belize for 2007". This study found that these three game fish generate approximately US$60,000 per year for Belize and these economic benefits are now assured as long as their habitat remains intact. This “catch and release” legislation was a vital step toward sustainability and offers significant long-term economic and social advantages for Belize.
Turneffe Atoll Marine Reserve MANAGEMENT PLAN (10 MB)
As a key step to ensure the sustainability of Turneffe's commercial fishery, Turneffe Atoll Trust funded a comprehensive baseline analysis of the atoll's Queen conch (Stombus Gigas) population. This is thought to be the most comprehensive analysis of a conch population done to date and it will serve as a much-needed baseline for evaluating management interventions for this fishery going forward. We are hopeful that a similar analysis can be done for Turneffe's spiny lobster fishery in the near future.As part of our Conservation Oversight Program, in late 2015 we addressed a destructive development approved in the Northern Bogue area of Turneffe which is in direct opposition to the guidelines of the Turneffe Atoll Marine Reserve and the laws of Belize. Before it could be stopped, developers deforested five acres of mangroves and then dredged a swampy area in the middle of the property to fill this low-lying land with mud. Turneffe Atoll Trust sued the developers as well as the Department of Environment, the Fisheries Department and the Department of Environment arguing that several laws and policies of the Marine Reserve had been violated. As a result of TAT's efforts, this development has been shut down since February and we are very optimistic about the outcome of the lawsuit. The judge has, in fact, indicated to the governmental agencies that they should try to settle this case as they can't possibly win. At present, we working to structure a meaningful settlement which would set constructive precedents for future development.
TAT has purchased an option on the Oceanic Society property at the Southern end of Blackbird Caye. This is an important parcel of land which we hope to keep from being improperly developed. This is the initial action of our land trust program and we hope to ensure that this property is used in a sustainable manner. We feel that the best use for the property would be to have it become a world-class Center for Ecological Restoration and Stewardship that would focus on understanding and maintaining ecosystem services to assure that habitats are protected to support the sustainable uses of Turneffe. This would presumably involve building a coalition of universities.
Earlier this year, w formed the Fishermen's Eco-tourism Alliance (F.E.T.A.). This new organization joins the symbiotic skills and abilities of Turneffe's commercial fishermen with Turneffe's eco-tourism sector to jointly advocate for habitat protection at Turneffe. The fishing community and eco-tourism have similar needs to prevent habitat destruction. We are optimistic about the potential of this organization to partner with TAT in the protection of Turneffe.