Coastal Zone Management of Belize

The coastal zone of Belize is a complex system comprised of the barrier reef, the three offshore atolls, hundreds of patch reefs, extensive seagrass beds, mangrove forests, and over 1,000 cayes. This area is home to several endangered species such as the West Indian manatee, American crocodile, marine turtles and several birds. It is a very dynamic region where land and sea meet, resulting in highly productive natural processes. Most of the development pressures are occurring along the coast and cayes, resulting in degraded coastal resources and loss of critical habitat.

Belize's coastal zone is important for the continued economic development of the country as it hosts 45% of the population as well as various productive sectors, including two of the major industries, fisheries and tourism. In 1999, $BZ200-300 million was generated from activities taking place within the coastal zone. However, responsibility for undertaking functions related to the economic development, resource and environmental management in the coastal zone of Belize is divided among numerous agencies which may lead to fragmentation of management responsibility and ad-hoc decision making on development; inadequate resource allocation and cumulative effects on the natural resource base.

The coastal zone of Belize as described in the Coastal Zone Management Act includes the area bounded by the shoreline up to the mean highwater-mark on its landward side and by the outer limit of the territoral sea on its seaward side, including all coastal waters.

The beginning of Coastal Zone Management (CZM) in Belize dates back to a workshop held in San Pedro in 1989. At this time, it was recognized that an integrated, holistic approach to management of our coastal resources was necessary to ensure their use and protection in the long-term. The participants at this meeting recommended that a CZM Unit be established under the Fisheries Department. This unit would initiate the integrated CZM programme required; taking a multi-sectoral approach that links the effects of land-based activities on the marine environment.

By 1990, the small CZM Unit was functioning and the CZM Technical Committee was established. Although this programme made good progress, it clearly needed expanding and strengthening, but funding was required. In early 1993, the GEF/UNDP CZM Project was launched, providing significant financing that has made integrated CZM in Belize a permanent and well-established national programme.

The Coastal Zone Management Plan of Belize

The Coastal Zone Management Plan, as prescribed in the Coastal Zone Management Act 1998, defines the policies, strategies and guidelines for the management and conservation of Belize's coastal resources (Christie 1998). This plan is being developed in two phases, the initial stage being the development of the National Integrated Coastal Zone Management Strategy for Belize.

The second phase is the development of regional guidelines for the nine coastal planning regions and the updated Caye Development Policy.

As required by the Act, the CZM Plan will be implemented by governmental and non-governmental agencies responsible for aspects of the Plan. The CZM Authority will oversee the monitoring of the implementation for the plan.


The CZM Act was passed in April 1998, and became operational in May of that year. It provides for the institutional arrangements for CZM in Belize through the establishment of a CZM Authority and its technical arm, the CZM Institute.

The Act also establishes an Advisory Council, appointed by the Authority. This Council is comprised of a representation from the government, private sector, NGO community and academia. Its function is to advise the Institute on technical matters pertaining to coastal issues and to facilitate coordination among agencies.

The Act also provides for the preparation of a Coastal Zone Management Plan and for the introduction of fiscal measures to support the work of the Authority and Institute.

CZM Authority of Belize

The CZM Authority was established under the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Co-operatives. It is comprised of a Board of Directors appointed by the Minister and a Chief Executive Officer appointed by the Board.

The Authority is an autonomous public statutory body charged with the responsibility of implementing and monitoring policies that govern the use and development of the coastal zone in Belize.

The major functions of the Authority are:

  • Advise the Minister on all matters related to the coastal zone, and on the formation of policies
  • Assist in development of programmes and projects
  • Foster regional and international collaboration
  • Commission research and monitoring
  • In consultation with stakeholders, assist in preparation of development guidelines and review the CZM Plan prepared in accordance with the Act
  • Maintain the national coral reef and coastal water quality monitoring programmes