Mission & Overview

The mission of Turneffe Atoll Trust is to drive conservation and other efforts leading to a healthy ecosystem at Turneffe Atoll supporting sustainable social and economic benefits for Belize and serving as a model for similar coastal marine environments throughout the world.

Founded in 2002 under the name Friends of Turneffe Atoll, Inc., Turneffe Atoll Trust is a 501(c) (3) nonprofit company with a purpose to further scientific understanding and educate the public about the ecological and economic value of sustainably managing Turneffe Atoll and other sensitive tropical marine habitats.
For most of its duration, Turneffe Atoll Trust has operated with a small, informal board and no staff. Minimal administrative costs have allowed nearly 100% of contributed funds (primarily generated through donations from Turneffe Flats Lodge via its commitment to 1% for the Planet) to go directly to programs. As a result, the organization has been able to complete several important projects with relatively limited resources. Of particular note, Friends of Turneffe Atoll’s funding of an economic study entitled, “The Economic Impact of Recreational Fishing for Bonefish, Permit and Tarpon in Belize for 2007,” in conjunction with the leadership efforts of the organization, was critical in securing formal legislative protection for bonefish, tarpon and permit in Belize. This “catch and release” legislation is a vital step toward sustainability and offers significant long-term economic and social advantages for Belize.
While the early work of Turneffe Atoll Trust created a solid foundation, the atoll remains highly threatened by over-fishing, land speculation and inappropriate development. Recognizing the need to accelerate its efforts, the organization completely reassembled its board of directors in 2010 and brought on a full-time executive director with a primary focus on fundraising. Armed with the necessary talent and expertise, coupled with the momentum of the catch and release legislation and other key forces at work in Belize, Turneffe Atoll Trust is poised to significantly advance the mission of the organization over the next several years.
The strategic plan outlined herein builds on the previous work and successes of Turneffe Atoll Trust and the key strengths of the organization, including but not limited to:
-        the urgent environmental, social and economic need for sustainable management of coastal areas in Belize and throughout the World
-        the unique scientific and economic value of the Turneffe Atoll as a relatively healthy and essentially self-contained coastal marine ecosystem
-        the significant initial successes of Friends of Turneffe Atoll
-        a good understanding of local logistics in Belize as well as an established network of contacts
-        the passion of key stakeholders to see Turneffe sustainably managed
-        the experience of the Board of Directors and their collective network of resources

Desired Impact
The desired impact of Turneffe Atoll Trust is a healthy ecosystem at Turneffe Atoll, which supports sustainable social and economic benefits for Belize and serves as a model for similar coastal marine environments throughout the world.
To achieve this impact, Turneffe Atoll Trust believes that the following must be accomplished:
  1. Implementation of a formal fisheries enforcement program at Turneffe Atoll with the proper tools and oversight to ensure ongoing success.
  2. The institution of an official protected designation for Turneffe Atoll by the Government of Belize, most likely a Marine Reserve.
  3. Ongoing advocacy of Turneffe Atoll stakeholders through the recently organized Turneffe Atoll Sustainability Council (TASC).
  4. Continued support for the recently reestablished Turneffe Islands Coastal Advisory Committee (TICAC) to the extent possible. TAT acknowledges that the recommendations of TICAC may be mitigated by governmental influence on this committee as well as by changes to TICAC’s recommendations by the Coastal Zone Board
 5.    The education of recreational users, government officials, local businesses, foreign businesses and the general public in Belize regarding the sustainable economic benefits of catch and release.
  1. The institution of development guidelines and/or restrictions at Turneffe, particularly relating to dredging, mangrove destruction and over-the-water development.
  1. The establishment of a governmental or quasi-governmental entity to officially represent Turneffe Atoll stakeholders, probably through TASC and possibly through TICAC.
 8.    Formal protection of critical areas of the Turneffe Atoll, beginning with those areas identified in the 2003 TICAC Development Guidelines, possibly through a land conservancy approach.
 9.   The enactment of improved, scientifically-based regulations ensuring sustainability of the commercial fishing industry as well as additional regulations providing more definitive protection of habitats from the negative impacts of development. These regulations should address (but should not be limited to):
    1. further protection of fish spawning areas including all known fish aggregation sites
    2. full protection of the coral reef, the back reef flats and other particularly sensitive marine areas
    3. prohibiting dredging, destruction of flats (particularly the back reef flats), clearing of back reef cayes and over-the-water development
    4. more complete prohibitions on mangrove clearing
    5. protection of sea grass
    6. a ban on netting at Turneffe
10. Ongoing research with an emphasis on establishing the economic advantages of sustainable development and/or defining sustainable parameters for fisheries regulation and development at Turneffe.
  1. A coalition of like-minded organizations working to protect coastal environments.