An Economic Analysis of Turneffe Atoll

Prepared by Anthony J. Fredler, Phd. Human Dimensions Consulting

The Economic Value of Turneffe Atoll

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Few places in the world are blessed with the diverse marine resources found at Belize’s Turneffe Atoll. Turneffe supports both a vibrant tourism economy and a productive commercial fishery. Additionally, the atoll provides valuable protection from storm damage for the mainland, particularly for Belize City.

Over 60% of Belize’s tourists participate in marine activities during their stay in Belize. As one of Belize’s major marine tourism destinations, Turneffe Atoll is an important component of the Belize tourism economy. With at least 60 named dive sites, Turneffe is visited by divers from around the world who either stay at one of the all-inclusive resorts on the atoll or travel to Turneffe from as far away as San Pedro, Caye Caulker or Placentia. Turneffe’s back-reef flats, creeks, channels and seagrasses offer world-renowned sport fishing for bonefish, permit, tarpon and several other species. Turneffe Atoll has been recognized by experts as one to the World’s seven best bonefishing destinations and one of the ten best permit fishing destinations. Turneffe Atoll is also home to many threatened and endangered species including the American saltwater crocodile, Antillean manatee, Hawksbill turtle, goliath grouper, and Nassau grouper making it a centerpiece for eco-tourism and marine research.
For generations, Turneffe Atoll has supported an important commercial fishery. Although this fishery appears to have experienced a significant decline over the past decade, it continues to be an important part of Belize’s economy and an important source of jobs in Belize.
Reefs and mangroves dampen the effects of tropical storms and hurricanes by protecting mainland property from damage. This storm protection is a valuable benefit related to Turneffe Atoll; and Turneffe’s location, directly East of Belize City, makes its ability to moderate storm damage particularly important. These benefits are recognized as essential when considering offshore planning and development decisions (Deitrich 2006; Sadovy 2005).
Much of Belize’s offshore area, including portions of Lighthouse Atoll and Glover’s Reef Atoll, is protected under the National Protected Areas System Plan. Although Turneffe Atoll has long been recognized as a conservation priority, as emphasized in the GAP Analysis by Meerman (2005), Turneffe Atoll currently enjoys no definitive management structure or protected status.

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