Integrating property rights into fisheries management: The case of Belize's journey to managed access
Small-scale fisheries are facing increasing pressures due to overexploitation of resources, resulting in decreased fish stocks, biodiversity loss, and degradation of marine ecosystems. The unregulated open access conditions of these systems are considered a main driver of this context, leading to increasing calls for fisheries reform over the past decade. Belize is no exception, recently introducing a rights-based fisheries territorial system (Managed Access Program – MAP) aimed at incentivizing fisher ownership and stewardship of regions to promote sustainability. The implementation of managed access brings with it an interaction of actors and issues at the local and regional scale that raises questions about the feasibility and potential success of the program. In this paper, using a combination of literature review and semi-structured interviews with 54 fishers and 25 policymakers across Belize's fisheries sector, we provide a policy analysis of the MAP and review initial responses. We found the new system to be primarily a re-packaging of traditional fishing areas with unenforced regulations. Responses from stakeholders were varied around the implementation of the MAP, with the majority of references being negative in tone. While the introduction of MAP in Belize seeks to provide solutions to Belize's fisheries sector, questions remain around the ability of the MAP to meet its objectives.