Unregulated coastal development, overfishing, climate change and pressures from tourism threaten Belize’s world-famous reefs and mangroves. Until 2007, the importance of benefits from these ecosystems and their substantive contribution to the national economy were not adequately reflected in national investment priorities and policy decisions.
The study Coastal Capital: Belize addressed this issue by assessing the contribution of reef- and mangrove-associated tourism, fisheries and shoreline protection services to Belize’s economy. In 2007, the estimated value from these three ecosystem services was US$ 395–559 million–significant when compared to Belize‘s total gross domestic product (GDP) of just US$1.3 billion. In the years since, the Belizean goverment and civil society have taken significant steps to protect coral reefs and mangroves.
Coastal Capital: Belize findings have been used to justify new fishing regulations such as banning parrotfish harvest and spearfishing in marine protected areas (MPAs), mangrove legislation, a successful damage claim against a ship that ran aground on the Belize Barrier Reef and an offshore oil drilling ban.
Growing into a role model beyond national borders, a replication of this study triggered MPA establishment in St. Maarten in 2010. The Jamaican government was also awarded damages for a ship grounding in 2011, citing the Belize case as precedent.