Photo: Elisa Areano


The COVID-19 pandemic persists all over the world. Grantees are working to their best capacity following country restrictions and adapting activities to maintain social distancing measures. MAR Fund has had constant communication with grantees and donors to continue moving forward on the conservation of the Mesoamerican Reef System.


Photo: Elisa Areano


The MAR Fish project is the largest coordinated monitoring network of fish spawning aggregation (FSA) 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.

During the first quarter of 2021, expeditions to Cayman Crown continued and the Guatemalan Congress is reviewing the documents presented to include Cayman Crown as a core area of the Punta de Manabique Wildlife Refuge.


Expeditions were done during February and March 2021, with a monitoring team integrated by staff from the Toledo Institute for Development and Environment (TIDE), Belize Fisheries Department (BFD) and Fundación para el Ecodesarrollo y la Conservación (FUNDAECO). The sites explored were: Omoa Fisher Anchor, North Bezel, West Bezel and The Jewel. Individuals of Black Grouper and Tiger Grouper were present at the sites, Tiger Groupers were showing spawning coloration, although no spawning aggregation was observed.

Following up on the reform of the Law of Punta de Manabique Wildlife Refuge to include Cayman Crown as core area, FUNDAECO gave a technical presentation to the new members of the Environmental Commission of the Guatemalan Congress. The commission will review the complete file and will provide its opinion.

FUNDAECO set up a roundtable integrated by the maritime authorities and the FUNDAECO team working in Cayman Crown to discuss control and surveillance, management strategies and keep its members updated on the Cayman Crown reef.


Emily Site:

The Belize Fisheries Department (BFD) conducted monitoring surveys during February and March, 2021. No direct spawning was observed, however, groupers and snappers encountered showed signs of spawning behavior. Schools of other fish species were observed such as Bar Jack, Horse eye Jack and Yellowtail Snapper.

School of snappers at Emily Site. Photo: BFD


Photo: Elisa Areano

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 the design of the parametric insurance, in collaboration with Willis Towers Watson (WTW), The Nature Conservancy (TNC), the CCAD and other partners in the region. The study “Economic Assessment of Reef Ecosystems in the MAR Region and the Goods and Services they provide” was finalized. The development of emergency response capacities in the MAR continues to move forward with training provided in Belize and the signature of an agreement between MAR Fund and the National Council of Protected Areas in Guatemala. A marine habitat analysis for the region was finalized which describes the extension of coral reef, mangroves and seagrass habitats in the MAR region.

MAR Fund and Willis Tower Watson (WTW) were invited by The Ocean Risk and Resilience Action Alliance (ORRAA) for the project to be featured in a Solutions Series 2021 which is a series of virtual events to share progress on the work of the Alliance and accelerate it.

Furthermore, the study “Economic Assessment of Reef Ecosystems in the MAR Region and the Goods and Services they provide», funded by the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) was finalized. A Brief is being developed for its distribution among the regional and national authorities of the MAR and the private sector.

MAR Fund and The Nature Conservancy (TNC) are developing and implementing Emergency Response capacities in the four MAR countries. Main advances on these activities include:


The Task Force held an online meeting to build the post-storm emergency response capacities in Belize. Also, TNC and MAR Fund provided training through an online workshop to the Response Coordinating Committee. Fourteen people participated in the training. Trainees included the Fisheries Department, the Environmental Research Institute (University of Belize), Hol Chan Marine Reserve, Turneffe Atoll Sustainability Association, San Pedro Tourist Guide Association, Department of Environment (DOE) and Fragments of Hope. TNC and MAR Fund worked together to provide the training.


A Collaboration Agreement was signed between MAR Fund and the National Council of Protected Areas in Guatemala (CONAP), with the purpose of jointly contributing to the protection and conservation of the coastal and marine resources in the Guatemalan Caribbean. By this, MAR Fund and CONAP will formalize the emergency response capacities in key reef sites of the Caribbean side of Guatemala.

From left to right: Carlos Rodríguez, from MAR Fund; and Carlos Martínez, Executive Secretary from CONAP. Photo: CONAP

MAR Fund and the RRN, with support from the project MAR2R (CCAD/WWF/GEF), hired a consultancy group to carry out the “Development of instruments for the governance of the Reef Restoration Network of the Mesoamerican Reef System (RRN-MAR).” The objective is to develop, in a participatory manner 1) A Strategic Plan and its respective Action Plan, updated for a period of five years, 2) a Biennial Operating Plan, 3) a Strategic and financial Sustainability plan, 4) a Protocol for the Exchange of Data and Information among the members of the RRN and other partners, and 5) a Code of Ethics.

MAR Fund, with support from the project MAR2R (CCAD/WWF/GEF), is carrying out the Regional Demonstration Project in attention to the SCTLD.  The Regional Dialogue Group of the project held two ordinary meetings to advance on the project’s implementation.

In 2020, two Small Grants were formalized from the 12th Joint Request for Proposals. Despite the emergency of COVID-19, they have made the following progress:

  1. Driving a national response strategy to address Stony Coral Tissue Loss Disease in Honduras. By Roatan Marine Park (RMP)
  • A press release was elaborated announcing the detection of SCTLD and the decision of a permanent closure or quarantine in the Flower’s Bay Area (Southshore of Roatan). The press release was drafted by government institutions in collaboration with RMP.
  • RMP participated in the revision of a Presidential Decree to declare a state of environmental emergency due to the SCTLD outbreak in Honduras.
  • In December 2020, the emergency declaration was released in Diario Oficial “La Gaceta,” approved by the Council of Ministers.


  1. Rescue of emblematic coral species at risk of local extinction due to the White Syndrome. By Amigos de Isla Contoy (AIC)
  • Cryopreservation of genetic material from four species (Diploria labyrinthiformis, Pseudodiploria strigosa, Orbicella faveolata, and O. annularis).
  • A total of 11 field trips were made to three reef sites to monitor coral spawning.
  • An analysis of the HRI database was carried out to identify the areas of the MAR that are most susceptible to SCTLD. A GIS map was developed as a tool to quickly locate reefs with species highly susceptible to SCTLD, as well as potential donor colonies.


In 2021, two Small Grants were formalized from the 13th Joint Request for Proposals. The projects are:

  1. “Beyond the White Syndrome: Rescue and Sexual Reproduction of Susceptible Species” by AIC

The objective is to ensure future restoration efforts through the rescue of genetic material and the sexual reproduction of corals. The project aims to increase the number of cryopreserved gametes and include the production of sexual recruits of at least 3 species of the 20 currently affected. These actions are expected to have a greater impact on coral reef restoration and conservation.

  1. “Addressing the onset of Stony Coral Tissue Loss Disease outbreak in Lighthouse Reef Atoll, Belize” by Belize Audubon Society

The objective is to respond to the outbreak of SCTLD through effective monitoring, treatment and continuous tracking throughout the Lighthouse Reef Atoll (LHRA). Additionally, the project aims to create awareness on SCTLD for targeted users of LHRA (fishermen, tour operators, tour guides and students) to improve their knowledge and understanding of the disease and build capacity of marine conservation partners in SCTLD identification and treatment.

A marine habitat analysis was conducted using updated spatial data to calculate the amount of coral reef, mangrove, and seagrass habitat in each of the four MAR countries, and at the regional level. Also, the amount of habitat within and outside of Marine Protected Areas at the MAR regional and country level scale was estimated. This analysis provides a preliminary example of how to use marine habitat data for potential management purposes.


Photo: Elisa Areano

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 development of the final draft protocol for undertaking the Integrated Reef Resilience Index; execution of stakeholder mapping and the completion of a perception audit to guide formulation of the branding and marketing strategy for the BBRRS World Heritage Site; development of the draft Business Plan and financial strategy for the Turneffe Atoll Marine Reserve;  and finalization of the consultancy for the development of the Reef Protectors’ Program Manual for guiding implementation of the programs’ outreach.


Contributing to the knowledge, monitoring and protection of mesoamerican reef’s fish spawning aggregations and replenishment zones.

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.

  • TIDE, Fundación para el Ecodesarrollo y la Conservación (FUNDAECO) and Healthy Reefs Initiative (HRI) engaged in two virtual meetings to develop the final draft Cooperation Agreement for work at the Cayman Crown Site.
  • From February 25th – March 1st, 2021, one field expedition was completed at Cayman Crown Reef, by researchers from TIDE and FUNDAECO. Areas explored include south of Rise and Fall Bank (named Omoa Fisher Anchor), North Bezel, West Bezel and the Jewel. TIDE will continue fish spawning aggregation (FSA) monitoring expeditions, in an effort to fully characterize the FSA zones at the Cayman Crown Site.
  • In addition to its sustained discussions with the Belize Fisheries Department. On February 6th, 2021, members of TIDE’s team including its Executive Director, provided the Minister of Blue Economy Hon. Andre Perez and CEO Ms. Kennedy Carrillo a tour of the Cayman Crown Site. TIDE remains optimistic in working with the Ministry to attain co-management rights for the Sapodilla Caye Marine Reserve in the near-term.

Resilience analysis of Belize’s protected areas system to climate change.

General Objective: Understanding the resilience potential of targeted Marine Protected Areas in Belize, through a “snapshot” resilience assessment.

  • Having developed and utilized the draft protocol to undertake an Integrated Reef Resilience Index, WWF now has some draft results from the “zoomed in” integrated resilience analysis for the targeted MPAs. The organization has also developed a list of resilience strategies which includes mangrove protection and restoration, coral protection and restoration, and seagrass protection. The quantitative and spatial distribution of targets for these resilience strategies will be reported on during the next reporting period, as the final round of model runs are still ongoing and findings are expected to be validated by stakeholder within May/June 2021.

Branding for change—enhancing national and international awareness of the importance of the BBRRS WHS.

General Objective: Creating and implementing a branding and marketing strategy, inclusive of a communication plan, to sensitize the Belize and international community on the importance of the Belize Barrier Reef Reserve System (BBRRS).

  • In advancing efforts towards the development of the BBRRS branding and marketing strategy, CREST conducted stakeholder mapping and undertook a perception audit (nationally and internationally) to document public, private, civil sector, and marginalized groups, interest, stake, potential role and responsibility at effectively branding and marketing the BBRRS. Information gathered will be used as the basis for development of the branding and marketing strategy, and communications plan.
  • Additionally, working collaboratively with WWF the Belize Tourism Board (BTB) is in process of revamping its website to include information on the BBRRS WHS. A total of 9 articles on the WHS as well as a responsible travel guideline have already been created and shared with the BTB for inclusion on their website.
  • Finally, a logo and brand name (Belize Barrier Reef) have been finalized for the BBRRS and will be shared shortly with the branding committee and Belize World Heritage Advisory Committee BWHAC.

CREST consultation meeting with international stakeholders. Photo: WWF

Towards sustainability for the Turneffe Atoll Marine Reserve.

General Objective: : Enhancing TASA’s capacity to provide effective management of the Turneffe Atoll Marine Reserve (TAMR).

  • With the valuable support of Blue Finance and in collaboration of its management team, TASA developed its draft Fundraising Strategy and Revenue Generation Plan (Business Plan) which will be presented to its Board for approval.
  • In March 2021, TASA retained a Protected Areas Business Developer to assist in designing and promoting initiatives that will drive implementation of its Fundraising Strategy and Revenue Generation Plan (Business Plan). The organization also continues to make advancements in the ongoing consultancy for the revision of the TAMR management plan. On March 25th, 2021, a follow up meeting with TASA’s management team was held to program consultation meetings with stakeholders, while the consultancy team continues to advance sections of the management planning process that does not require stakeholder feedback and input at the moment.

TASA draft Business Plan Photo: TASA

Continued reef replenishment in southern Belize with an emphasis on mapping and quantifying natural and replenish acroporid cover.

General Objective: : Increasing the genetic biodiversity of replenished acroporids and overall coral diversity, by replenishing with non-acroporid stony coral species, at four to seven sites in two marine protected areas near Placencia—documenting results with existing and novel methods.

  • During this reporting period, FoH out-planted a total of 3,232 acroporid coral fragments across three sites, Laughing Bird Caye National Park, Moho, and Gladden Spit and Silk Cayes Marine Reserve. This includes new resilient genets at each site.
  • Additionally, FoH has secured satellite imagery to map approximately 171 km2 of reef in targeted areas of shallow reefs (and some open water) near Placencia, exceeding its target of 100km2. FoH is currently in the process of annotating the area mapped by habitat type, after which additional ground truthing will be conducted to verify live coral vs general ‘reef’ habitat.

Area of satellite imagery secured for mapping 171 km2 of shallow reefs near Placencia. Photo: FoH

Managing responsible fisheries in Belize.

General Objective: : Ensuring the successful establishment and pay-out 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.

  • Oceana created a video featuring the testimonials of select fishers who are participating in the gillnet buyback program. In the unfeigned 2 minutes video, these fishers provided testimonials about their lives after gillnet fishing and how the compensation they received so far from the buy-back program and assistance from the transition program has created opportunities for sustainable income diversification, and the generation of new funding streams for them and their families.

Safeguarding replenishment zones within the Belize barrier reef reserve system.

General Objective: : Expanding Belize’s protected areas network and improving its management and compliance by increasing support for the finalization of the replenishment zone expansion efforts in Belize.

  • On March 7th, 2021, WCS hosted a meeting with fishers from Dangriga Town regarding the proposed expansion for Glover’s Reef Marine Reserve (GRMR)[AV1].
  • The organization also developed a series of infographics, which highlight the benefits of replenishment zones and represents a call to action for the legislation of the remaining approved replenishment zone expansion sites in Belize’s territorial waters.
  • Additionally, WCS recently commissioned a consultancy and is working with key partners including the Belize Fisheries Department, the Belize Coast Guard to review the existing enforcement plan and further develop a draft enforcement strategy for GRMR.
  • Finally, the organization provided the Government of Belize a document outlining priorities for blue and green sustainable development in Belize.

Meeting held with Dangriga fishers. Photo: WCS


Building capacity of fishing stakeholders for participation in marine conservation, through education, public-awareness and collaboration.

General Objective: Building on BAS’ existing environmental education and community outreach program activities specifically the youth focused Reef Protector Program (RPP).

  • BAS is currently distributing educational leaflets on plastic pollution and the single use plastics phase-out to targeted middle and upper division students in the communities of Chunox and Copper Bank. During Reef Week 2021 (March 7th – 14th), BAS launched a plastic pollution creative art competition to stimulate awareness of the negative social and environmental effects of plastic pollution and the need for considerations on how to reduce household plastic consumption. While four food vendors were given starter packages to promote the use of biodegradable food containers.
  • BAS has also finalized the consultancy for development of its Reef Protectors Program Manual, which will serve as an important guiding document for the program’s implementation.

Food vendor from Chunox receiving biodegradable food containers. Photo: BAS

Monitoring effectiveness of the Turneffe Atoll Marine Reserve through long-term monitoring of marine megafauna.

General Objective: Detecting the recovery of depleted populations of marine megafauna at the Turneffe Atoll Marine Reserve using long-term standardized monitoring methods.

  • MarAlliance began conducting monitoring of megafauna at Turneffe Atoll Marine Reserve in April 2021. The organization also contracted a videographer to create the video highlighting its work at TAMR, and collected new and necessary footage during its recent field session. Additionally, MarAlliance reported having submitted a paper on the estimation of nurse shark populations Belize-wide, that includes data from Turneffe to PLOS ONE, a peer-reviewed open access scientific journal published by the Public Library of Science. Once the new data from 2021 is gathered and analysed, the organization will prepare a draft of another paper that integrates Turneffe data, for submission to a peer reviewed journal later in 2021.

Establishing effective lionfish management in Belize’s fish replenishment zones.

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.

  • On the 1st of February 2021, the Blue Ventures team conducted a three weeks field session at Turneffe and successfully completed science and dive training with TASA field staff. This included three PADI Open Water and dive Advanced Open Water certifications, lionfish and prey fish survey training, lionfish culling, safe handling and dissection training and practice.
  • Preliminary data analysis performed in January 2021 on lionfish data collected at Turneffe indicated that lionfish density was 24±5 ind/ha (range 0-140 ind/ha), with lionfish detected at 60% of sites. Average lionfish size was 22 cm. Across all surveyed sites in Turneffe, densities were similar in forereef (26±7 ind/ha, n=20) and backreef (22±9 ind/ha, n=19) areas. However, a difference was detected between management zones, with lionfish densities greater in no-take zones (NTZ, 33±9 ind/ha, n=20) versus general use zones (GUZ, 15±5 ind/ha, n=19) coral reef sites. In fact, lionfish density was significantly lower in GUZ backreef sites (7±4 ind/ha,n=10) than any other part of the reserve.
  • Blue Ventures also provided TASA staff with equipment to support their ongoing lionfish monitoring efforts. This included dissection kits, masks and fins, lionfish spears and a Zookeeper (lionfish containment device).

Improving management of fish spawning aggregation zones in Gladden Spit and Silk Cayes Marine Reserve.

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).

  • On February 10th, 2021, representatives from SEA discussed with the Belize Fisheries Department the execution of virtual focus group sessions to engage special license fishers regarding management of the Gladden Site spawning aggregation site. To date, SEA has conducted one focus group session.
  • To enhance effective management of whale shark tourism in Placencia, SEA convened a virtual meeting of the Whale Shark Committee on February 24th, 2021. The session saw participation from SEA representatives and from Placencia’s dive and tour operators. The Committee reviewed the updated Whale Shake Interaction Guideline and Gentleman’s Agreement; and discussed scientific data sharing and the whale shark tour lottery system.

Towards the knowledge, monitoring and protection of MAR Fish Spawning Aggregations and Replenishment Zones.

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.

  • In February 2021, TIDE commenced the process for commissioning the consultancy to develop the management plan for the Sapodilla Cayes Marine Reserve. After two weeks in the leading national newspaper and on the organization’s social media platforms, the request for interest was closed with three bids.
  • The organization consequently commissioned the consultancy in March, 2021 with the consultancy firm PPF Capital Belize Ltd. It is expected that the consultancy will be finalized by August 2021.

Exploration of sea cucumber mariculture potential in Belize.

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.

  • UB-ERI has collected, spawned and released/returned Broodstock sea cucumbers to the sea. The spawned eggs were collected inside 105-micron mesh egg collectors and incubated. The life cycle post fertilization was monitored to document embryonic stages until juveniles hatched. Two cages with twelve 12-inch micron mesh designed “banjos” with juveniles enclosed were deployed at Calabash Caye Field Station.
  • Bel-Euro Aquaculture Ltd. has thus far successfully cultured one species (Nannochloropsis) to be used as feed for the spawns. According to UB-ERI A mix of several microalgae paste (Nannochloropsis, Thallasiosira, Isochrysis and Tetraselmis) is currently being used as feed for juveniles.

Microscopic image of fertilized eggs at one hour of fertilization. Photo: UB-ERI


Photo: Elisa Areano


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. All projects have finalized activities. Additional information can be found in the webpage.



Supporting Coastal and Marine Resources Management and Protection in the Mesoamerican Reef (MAR)

The twelfth request for proposals is currently under development. The nine projects show recent progress and are presented below. Additional information can be found in the webpage.

The jewel of the Mesoamerican Reef – Phase II

Grantee:  Fundación para el Ecodesarrollo y la Conservación (FUNDAECO). Guatemala.

Progress to date:

  • An annual inter-institutional work plan for Cayman Crown was established between FUNDAECO, the Toledo Institute for Development and Environment (TIDE) and the Healthy Reefs for Healthy People Initiative (HRI). Biological monitoring of Fish Spawning Aggregation (FSA), management activities (patrols), environmental education and communication activities are included in the plan.
  • Two FSA monitoring took place in Cayman Crown, observing aggregation of snappers such as Lutjanus apodus, Lutjanus jocu, and other fish species (Caranx hippos, Carangoides ruber, Chaetodipterus faber).

A fish spawning aggregation monitoring in Cayman Crown. Photo: FUNDAECO


Grantee:  Fundación Mundo Azul (FUMNZ) & Healthy Reefs for Healthy People Initiative (HRI). Guatemala.

Progress to date:

  • The project coordinators postponed the field trips due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Plans are to get back in the field during the second semester of 2021.

Grantee: Fundación Defensores de la Naturaleza (FDN). Guatemala.

Progress to date:

  • The project coordinators are planning the field trips to develop the solid waste diagnosis for El Estor and nearby areas. Sites and dates are being established jointly with the Authority for the Management of the Lake Izabal and Río Dulce Basin (AMAZURLI, in Spanish), a new ally.
  • Environmental talks for kids from El Estor are also being planned jointly with Semillas del Océano.

Solid waste found in the study area. Photo: FDN

Grantee: Roatan Marine Park (RMP). Honduras.

Progress to date:

  • An online Fish Spawning Aggregation (FSA) workshop was conducted in January where RMP staff and volunteers were trained on the importance of FSA sites and on the monitoring methodology (e.g. fish ID and size measurements underwater).
  • Two meetings were held with the RMP rangers during March and April to teach them how to use the SMART tool and how to report any illegal fishing activities during FSA periods.
  • The FSA site in Sandy Bay has been monitored from January to March 2021. An average of 250 individuals of tiger groupers (Mycteroperca tigris) were observed spawning. Yellowfin groupers and black groupers were also observed in much less quantities, however, they did not display reproduction behavior.

A fish spawning aggregation monitoring in Sandy Bay. Photo: RMP

My Responsibility

Grantee: Bay Island Conservation Association-Roatan (BICA-Roatan). Honduras.

Progress to date:

  • Following the new design of the drinking water system approved for the Pensacola community, the contract with Ing. Sussy Ochoa for the construction of the first stage (section 1) is being signed. The work will last a couple of months.
  • 20 more septic tanks were cleaned in the Pensacola community to reduce the wastewater that contributes to marine pollution.

Cleaning of septic tanks. Photo: BICA


Grantee:  POLO’s Water Association (POLO’s). Honduras.

Progress to date:

  • With funds from other donors, the expansion of the sewerage network of the West End wastewater treatment system has started. The permit for construction of a new lifting station for the Avenida Miller, an additional area of the community, was requested and approved. The work began in January 2021 and so far the lifting station infrastructure was completed and most of the connection pipes were installed. The work will be finalized by the end of the project.

Installation of the lifting station in Avenida Miller. Photo: POLO’s

Grantee: Comunidad y Biodiversidad (COBI).

Progress to date:

  • Four women and 19 men from the communities of Punta Herrero and Punta Allen participated in the collection of tissue samples of the Caribbean grouper (E. striatus). Eighteen samples were collected in total.
  • Maria Noh, monitor of the Punta Allen community, presented her experience in monitoring Fish Spawning Aggregation with an informative note entitled «In the sea as in science, women and men are equal” in the page “Giants of the Past”.

Monitoring of grouper and collection of tissue samples. Photo: COBI

Grantee: Transformación, Arte y Educación, A.C. (TAE). Mexico.

Progress to date:

  • A promotional video of the launch of the application “Denuncia Pesquera” was published. A video, and a poster on Fish Replenishment Zones were also prepared.
  • Two more virtual training courses were given, one on illegal conduct in the field, and one more on basic legal issues for inspection and surveillance. Twenty-three people participated among the CONANP, tourism service providers and fishing cooperatives.

Poster on fish replenishment zones. Photo: TAE


Supporting Coastal and Marine Resources Management and Protection in the Mesoamerican Reef (MAR)

The Grants and Evaluation Committee meeting was virtually held on January 15, 2021 to recommend the proposals to approve. Eight projects were recommended for support, and later on approved by MAR Fund Donors and MAR Fund Board of Directors.

The thirteenth request for proposals is currently under development. The eight projects approved are presented below:

Grantee: Centinelas del Agua. Mexico.

  1. Best community practices for a comprehensive management of water and solid waste within the Yum Balam Flora and Fauna Protection Area, 2nd Phase.

Grantee: Comunidad y Biodiversidad. Mexico.

  1. Transferring knowledge as a measure to adapt to crisis.

Grantee: MarAlliance. Belize.

  1. Identifying spawning aggregations of economically important deep-sea fish species in Belize and Honduras.

Grantee: Fundación Mundo Azul, Healthy Reefs for Healthy People and Pixan’Ja. Guatemala.

  1. Phase III Cayman Crown: Communicating the scientific findings of the jewel of the MAR.

Grantee: Fundación para el Ecodesarrollo y la Conservación. Guatemala.

  1. Cayman Crown – the Crown Jewel of the Mesoamerican Reef – Protecting the most Important Coral Reef in Guatemala – III.

Grantee: EcoLogic Development Fund. Guatemala.

  1. Communities of the IBAMHA micro basin and San Juan strengthen their resilience in the RSMUA.

Grantee: Polo’s Water Association. Honduras.

  1. Best practices on solid waste management with municipal participation in Livingston.

Grantee: Asociación Multicultural de Mujeres para el Desarrollo Integral y Sostenible. Guatemala.

  1. Improving Water Treatment Processes in West End.


Photo: Elisa Areano

Oak Foundation continues to be an important partner and funder in the MAR. To provide further support and strengthen co-managers in the region, Oak Foundation gave MAR Fund a provision of sinking funds to on-going activities for a period of two to four years.

During this period, the last two grantees presented their final reports. Main results as shared below:

Grantee: Healthy Reefs for Healthy People Initiative (HRI)

  • The 2020 Eco-Audit was launched virtually on March 10, 2021. The overall regional eco Audit score improved from 54% in the first Eco-Audit of 2011, to 62% in 2016 to 66% in 2020.

Virtual Eco-Audit 2020 presentation. Photo: HRI
  • HRI has strengthened their relationship with partners in the region by working closely on specific topics. Together with Centinelas del Agua (CDA), Centro Mexicano de Derecho Ambiental (CEMDA) and Environmental Law Alliance Worldwide (ELAW), a communication campaign, “Water, our right” was launched to broadcast human rights access to water and important facts about water, laws and policies and ecosystem connectivity.
  • To be able to understand the stony coral tissue loss disease (SCTLD), HRI developed webinars to share general overview of the disease and its impacts on coral reefs, treatment efforts executed in Belize and what the MAR and Caribbean regions are doing to address this new threat, among others.

Stony Coral Tissue Loss Disease webinar. Photo: HRI

Grantee: Southern Environmental Association (SEA)

  • In March 2020, the Laughing Bird Caye Gift Shop closed as the country underwent COVID-19 measures. On March 1, 2021 the gift shop was opened following the measures from the Ministry of Health regarding the curfew, physical distancing, mandatory masks and maximum number of people in groups.

Safety measures signs placed at Laughing Bird Caye National Park. Photo: SEA
  • SEA achieved the Gold Standard, a certification needed to receive visitors, as per the guidelines provided by the Belize Tourism Board (BTB) to minimize the spread of COVID-19. This allows them to reopen the protected areas (tourism destination), which in turn will secure income through visitations.

Gold Standard Certification. Photo: SEA


Photo: Elisa Areano


MAR Fund’s social media followers up to April 30, 2021:








+50 videos


In February, María José González, MAR Fund’s Executive Director, was interviewed by Mexican science journalist Iván Carrillo, at the live and online Youtube Program called Atlas Aquatica.

During her participation on this program, supported by Mares Mexicanos and aired every Monday at 6pm (CST), María José talked about the importance of the MAR, its main challenges, and the projects led by MAR Fund in the Mesoamerican Reef region. To watch the first part of the interview and learn about the Mesoamerican Reef and the work to preserve it, click here. To learn about the role MAR Fund has played during its 15 years of trajectory in the MAR, click here.