‘Tobacco Caye Marine Station; a facility established for regional training and education, and the foundation for a sustainable model of community co-management of the South Water Caye Marine Reserve (SWCMR) through community outreach and education programs.’ An ambitious pilot project that once established can be implemented in other areas of the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef System. A major part of this project is the inclusion of community involvement.

The diversity of the cayes

The diversity of the cayes


Belize has a total of 18 Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) covering approximately 22% of its continental shelf and atolls. The vast majority of the MPA area is open to fishing, with less than 2% being fully closed to fishing. MPAs and their management form a major component of the Belize Biodiversity Action Plan. However, there are major gaps in the ability of the Government of Belize (GOB) to enforce marine protection regulations, due to demographic trends associated with large-scale migration, social stratification and the misunderstood role of MPAs in promoting community participation.

The unfortunate fact is that most Belizeans have never even seen their world-famous Barrier Reef and have no experiential connection with marine life and marine ecosystems except as consumers of marine products. Until we can personalize this relationship between human life and marine life, we will have a difficult time garnering local support for marine conservation efforts.

The main threat to the Belize Barrier Reef and the MPAs is a discontinuity between the goals of GOB/Fisheries management plans and needs and perceptions of local communities. Several of these MPAs encompass traditional fishing grounds. This has fuelled opposition against the establishment of MPAs, specifically marine reserves, by some fishers. In some cases, local fishermen have spearheaded strong lobbying for de-reservation of particular sites. The source of the conflict includes:

  • Misunderstanding of MPAs and their role;
  • Lack of awareness of management plans and goals;
  • Miscommunication and mistrust between regulatory agencies and resource users.

Our project’s focus is on strengthening the SWCMR Advisory Committee, strengthening community engagement in conservation activities and sustainable practices, and strengthening community education.


  1. To educate and raise local awareness on the global importance of the Belize Barrier Reef (BBR), the positive role of Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) and the pivotal role that communities can serve in long term reserve management.
  2. The establishment of a Tobacco Caye community based organization will become an integral part of our outreach and education program in communities and schools, aiding us in our workshops, giving presentations and leading conservation activities.
  3. Provide information about the marine environment for visitors, residents and user groups on how to use the resource responsibly, conservation and the sustainable use of natural resources The education and training facility will serve to inspire local participation in conservation activities.
  4. Establish a comprehensive community outreach program to increase awareness and raise the potential for meaningful community co-management.
  5. Strengthen and facilitate a working partnership through workshops, presentations and meetings, between the Belize Fisheries Department, the SWCMR Advisory Committee and local stakeholders. This will pave the way for a meaningful model of community participation in co-management of the SWCMR – the equal sharing of power and responsibility between government and a local community units, in the management of a protected area by members living on, near or adjacent to it.



Monkey Bay Wildlife Sanctuary is an environmental education center that offers experiential learning programs and training opportunities while serving as a model of conservation land stewardship


The Protected Areas Conservation Trust (PACT) is an environmental trust fund serving an enabling and empowering role in the conservation, preservation, enhancement, and management of Belize’s natural resources and protected areas.


The Mesoamerican Reef Fund (MAR Fund) is a non-profit corporation created by four environmental funds from Mexico, Belize, Guatemala and Honduras, as a financial mechanism for conservation and adequate resource use in the Mesoamerican Reef Ecoregion. This mechanism is unique in that it is the first environmental fund in the Western Hemisphere that transcends the national boundaries of four countries to encompass an entire “ecoregion”.

REEF (Rogers’ Environmental and Educational Foundation) was founded in 1995 by the present president, Wilmot Murray Rogers. It is a family foundation dedicated to preservation of the oceans of planet Earth. Its constitution specifically states that the involvement of youth is to be emphasised.

One of the members of the family, Leah Dollen Archibauld (nee Rogers) in her will, left $50,000. CDN to help preserve the oceans. It is $20,000 of this money that has been used to help with the construction of the Tobacco Caye Marine Station. It is the hope of REEF that the station will not only promote awareness amongst the youth of Belize and other countries but also it will facilitate research and development of coral propagation and maintenance techniques.
Post graduate studies and youth involvement in marine biology will be the prime areas that will be supported by REEF.

Anyone interested in co-operating with REEF in this endeavor is invited to contact:
Murray Rogers, 17 Irwin Street, Nanaimo, B.C. Canada, V9R-4W9 or phone 250- 741-1901.
Please email me at:

Gaviota Reef Resort:

Fermin Nunez. Phone number 501.509.5032