Update October - December 2020
MAR Fund has continued to operate at its best capacity. Thanks to our responsive Board, staff, partners and especially our donors, who have been flexible enough to allow us to change the way some projects operate, we have been able to address the needs of our grantees in these difficult times.
Some grantees have been able to return to field activities following country restrictions, and some others continue to work from home and through online events and training.
Fishing for the future:
Sustainable Fisheries for a Thriving Reef
MAR Fish project
The MAR Fish project is the largest coordinated network of fish spawning aggregation (FSA) monitoring sites in the Mesoamerican Reef (MAR) region. The overall objective is to promote the recovery of fisheries by strengthening the protection of the FSAs as critical areas in the life cycle of the species, through a better knowledge and understanding of the aggregations in the region.
Some of the advances on this program include a hydrographic survey done in the Cayman Crown reef to provide information to create a bathymetric map of the shallow areas. This will be used to declare this reef as a Particularly Sensitive Area. Fishers in Mexico were trained on how to collect tissue samples in fishing sites and environmental DNA in spawning sites, the results will indicate species present at FSA sites. Also in Mexico, an app was developed to report illegal fishing.
Mesoamerican Reef Rescue Initiative – RRI
The RRI was created to increase the resilience and ability to recover of the MAR and the environmental and cultural services it provides through capacity building, regulations, economic incentives and financial sustainability required for the effective and timely restoration of the coral reefs.
MAR Fund continues working in collaboration with Willis Towers Watson (WTW), The Nature Conservancy (TNC), the CCAD and other partners in the region to design and implement a parametric insurance model for reefs in at least seven sites of the MAR region to contribute to rapid post-event reef restoration and recovery. Emergency response capacities continue to be built on in every country. The Emergency Fund was deployed in October 2020 in response to the affected corals in three reef sites of the Puerto Morelos National Park in Quintana Roo, Mexico, following tropical storm Gamma and hurricane Delta.
With the support of the MAR2R project of CCAD/WWF/GEF, and in coordination with the four countries of the MAR, a Regional Stony Coral Tissue Loss Disease Working Group was created. The Group is the governance platform to promote the creation of capacities and action plans to address this disease in the region.
Belize Marine Fund
The BMF supports projects through two programmatic windows 1) the Targeted Grants Program and 2) the Small Grants Program.
The projects supported by these programs have been guided by those priority areas of focus established in the BMF’s Strategic Plan and in consultation with the BMF Steering Committee.
Some advances include the collection of 83 nets (approximately 25,00ft of gillnet) following the new legislation on the ban on the use and possession of gillnets in the marine waters under the jurisdiction of Belize; exploratory dives in Cayman Crown and Gladden Spit and Silk Cayes Marine Reserve looking for fish spawning aggregations; support to fishers’ families in the face of COVID-19, and the development of a protocol for the containment of diseases for sea cucumber mariculture project at the University’s Calabash Caye Field Station.
General Objective: Supporting scientific data collection at Cayman Crown, improving the knowledge-base of the ecological baseline of the site, while establishing the legal and technical frameworks for management; and raising awareness of its existence and the importance of management presence.
- On July 31st, 2020, the Government of Belize signed a Statutory Instrument for the expansion of the Sapodilla Cayes Marine Reserve (SCMR), to protect the Cayman Crown site. Additionally, on October 5th, 2020 TIDE conducted a meeting with representatives of key government agencies and presented its case for attaining co-management of the SCMR.
- TIDE procured and retrofitted equipment that will be used to conduct marine resources monitoring at Cayman Crown, and conducted exploratory dives, recording spawning activities at suspected fish spawning aggregation at the site. A total of 19 dives were conducted with 11.7 hours spent diving.
A school of Jacks pictured at Cayman Crown site Sapodilla Cayes Marine Reserve – Photo: TIDE
General Objective: Understanding the resilience potential of targeted Marine Protected Areas in Belize, through a “snapshot” resilience assessment.
- Through virtual meetings and workshops, WWF has shared a portfolio of draft strategies and results, for ecosystem-based adaptation; related to its integrated assessments of climate change impacts, risks, and ecosystem services.
- Based on the analysis of coastal hazard and habitat role, WWF gained a better understanding of where conservation or restoration investment could be useful in reducing climate risk. WWF has identified some resilience solutions, where mangrove protection and restoration; watershed management; and seagrass protection are being considered among the most popular solutions. With efforts on-the-way to identify spatially, where these options would best be implemented for risk reduction.
General Objective: Enhancing TASA’s capacity to provide effective management of the Turneffe Atoll Marine Reserve (TAMR).
- TASA commissioned the consultancy for updating the Turneffe Atoll Marine Reserve’s (TAMR) Management Plan; and commenced an initiative for the implementation of a new revenue generation mechanism and business plan that will assist in strengthening its financial sustainability.
- The organization also secured counterpart funding through the GEF/SGP to continue the TAMR Lobster Fishery Inventory work.
General Objective: Providing a national response in Belize to the debilitating stony coral tissue loss disease (SCTLD).
- Treatment for SCTLD is currently being conducted within the Bacalar Chico, Caye Caulker and Hol Chan Marine Reserves, using antibiotic and CoreRx, with proven effectiveness.
SCTLD rescue table and treatment of infection – Photo: HRI
General Objective: Ensuring the successful establishment and payout of a gillnet buyback fund to previously identified licensed gillnet fishers; contributing to the government of Belize’s commitment for a gillnet ban by 2022.
- On November 5th, 2020 the Government of Belize legislated a gillnet ban, via Statutory Instrument No. 158 of 2020. This legislation constitutes a ban on the use and possession of gillnets in the marine waters and covers all the seas under the jurisdiction of Belize.
- Oceana has collected nets, tags and licenses from all gillnet fishers, totalling approximately 83 nets, approximately 25,000ft of gillnet. Additionally, all beneficiaries of the buy-back program have been receiving payment.
- In collaboration with the Coalition for Sustainable Fisheries, Oceana continues to ensure that fishers in the transition program are benefitting from available training opportunities.
Emerson Galvez of Dangriga town hands over three gillnets as part of the gillnet license buyback and transition program – Photo: Oceana
General Objective: Building on BAS’ existing environmental education and community outreach program activities specifically the youth focused Reef Protector Program (RPP).
The following activities were implemented as part of BAS Reef Protectors Program:
- In December 2020, BAS commissioned the consultancy for the development of its Reef Protectors Program Manual, which should be finalized in April 2021.
Participants of BAS’ Reef Protectors Program – Photo: BAS
General Objective: Detecting the recovery of depleted populations of marine megafauna at the Turneffe Atoll Marine Reserve, using long-term standardized monitoring methods.
- MarAlliance provided emergency support to nine fishermen and their families (6 from Northern and 3 from southern Belize) in the face of COVID-19. These are fishers that have partnered with the organization over a number of years to conduct field activities.
General Objective: Developing and piloting protocols for a successful approach to lionfish control in Turneffe Atoll Marine Reserve (TAMR) that can be replicated across Belize’s MPAs system.
- In the face of COVID-19, Blue Ventures has adapted its work and successfully carried out non-fieldwork related activities. Utilizing recommendations and the outcome of discussions had at its virtual Lionfish Working Group sessions, Blue Ventures is currently working on the development of a White Paper to address barriers to lionfish control within fish replenishment zones across Belize’s MPA system.
TASA Team Participating in Virtual Training – Photo: TASA
General Objective: Maintaining connectivity across Belize’s fish spawning aggregation sites by supporting monitoring and surveillance at one multi-species fish spawning aggregation site, the Gladden Spit and Silk Cayes Marine Reserve (GSSCMR).
- SEA commenced data collection for spawning aggregation at GSSCMR on October 27, 2020. By the end of 2020 SEA had conducted four rounds of data collection, observing a visual increase in spawning behaviour of Nassau Grouper and an increase in counts of this and snapper species as compared to a similar period over the past 5 years.
- 57 surveillance patrols within the FSA at GSSCMR were conducted by SEA’s enforcement team with the Belize Coast Guard.
- A total of 13 observations or encounters (five sailboat and eight skiffs) were made with commercial fishers (33 from Managed Access Area 3) during the surveillance. No arrests followed.
- A meeting to discuss the management of the FSA is being planned together with the Fisheries Department and other key partners—including special license fishers. This meeting was initially planned for August 2020 but rescheduled to December 2020 owing to COVID-19.
General Objective: To help secure the fish stocks of the Mesoamerican Reef (MAR) region through the protection and management of fish replenishment zones located along the MAR.
- ased on the outcome of a rapid training needs assessment between October and November 2020, TIDE conducted various levels of dive training for key members of its science team conducting work at Port Honduras Marine Reserve and Sapodilla Cayes Marine Reserve (particularly Cayman Crown). The training included PADI open water, advanced open water, rescue and divemaster training courses. Additionally, all members of TIDE’s science team participated in a training on Emergency First Response (EFR).
- Finally, the organization also completed the procurement of additional dive equipment to be used by members of its science team at the Cayman Crown site.
General Objective: Artificially spawning adult Holothuria mexicana sea cucumbers and rearing the resulting larvae & juvenile ex-situ for release into the wild using low-cost techniques that can easily be replicated.
- In December 2020, UB-ERI developed a protocol for the containment of diseases for the sea cucumber mariculture project at the University’s Calabash Caye Field Station. According to UB-ERI, sea cucumber mariculture is new to Belize and the region, and information on disease and parasites affecting sea cucumber species are limited. Therefore, the protocol is designed to contain any potential parasites or disease that could result from the sea cucumber (Holothuria mexicana) mariculture experiments—potentially securing investments and increasing survival rates of larvae and juveniles.
MAR Fund Small Grants Program
Request For Proposals
11th Joint Request for Proposals (2018)
Supporting and Strengthening the Management of Coastal and Marine Protected Areas in the Mesoamerican Reef
Nine projects were supported under the eleventh request for proposals. Final results of five of those projects were presented in the previous update. Three more projects have finalized activities during this period and some important results are presented below. One more project is soon to end, its progress to date is also presented, as indicated below. Additional information can be found in the webpage.
12th Joint Request for Proposals (2019)
Supporting Coastal and Marine Resources Management and Protection in the Mesoamerican Reef (MAR)
13th Joint Request for Proposals (2020)
Supporting Coastal and Marine Resources Management and Protection in the Mesoamerican Reef (MAR)
On August 10, 2020, the French Global Environment Facility (FFEM), the Government of Germany through KfW, the Paul M. Angell Family Foundation, and the Mesoamerican Reef Fund (MAR Fund) were pleased to announce the 13th joint request for proposals (RfP).
With the overall objective to contribute to the conservation of the ecosystem functions of the Mesoamerican Reef System, the three specific objectives of the traditional window for this RfP were:
- To support actions to strengthen the resilience of NGOs, protected areas and coastal communities.
- To support and strengthen efforts for waste water and solid waste management.
- To support activities related to effective conservation and monitoring of fish spawning aggregations sites in the region.
The deadline to submit proposals was October 6, 2020. 28 complete proposals were received, distributed as follows: one from Belize, eight from Guatemala, ten from Honduras and nine from Mexico.
The Grants and Evaluation Committee meeting will be virtually held on January 15, 2021 to recommend the proposals to approve. The total amount for projects in this RfP was US$ 223,179.
Re-Granting in the Mesoamerican Reef
Oak Foundation has been an important partner and funder in the MAR for over 15 years. To consolidate and provide continuity to the achievements, Oak Foundation gave to MAR Fund a provision of sinking funds to on-going activities for a period of two to four years.
During this period, the last three grantees completed the implementation of their projects.
- Healthy Reefs for Healthy People Initiative (HRI) with the project: Healthy reefs for healthy people initiative, strengthening the scientific foundation.
- Sarteneja Alliance for Conservation and Development (SACD) with the project: Strengthening SACD management and institutional capacity for long term sustainability.
- Southern Environmental Association (SEA) with the project: Improving the financial stability of the Southern Environmental Association.
HRI and SEA are developing their final reports to submit; results will be shared in our next update.
MAR Fund followers continue to increase in social media networks. As of December 31, 2020 there are 3,857 followers on Facebook; 1,645 on Instagram; and 1,064 on Twitter.