The beauty and diversity of Belize’s coastal ecosystems draw tourists from around the globe. More than 40% of the country’s population lives and works along the coast and depends on these ecosystems for their livelihoods.
Belize’s coastal and ocean ecosystems provide services worth up to US$559 million per year – equivalent to 43% of GDP in 2007. These include support for commercial fisheries, tourism and protection from erosion and storm surges.
In 2010, Belize’s Coastal Zone Management Authority and Institute began to develop the country’s first national Integrated Coastal Zone Management Plan, in partnership with WWF and the Natural Capital Project (NatCap).
To understand the implications of different development scenarios, the team used NatCap’s InVEST (Integrated Valuation of Ecosystem Services and Trade-offs) software, designed to help incorporate the value of ecosystem services into decision-making.
By balancing conservation with current and future development needs, the plan could:
- boost revenue from lobster fishing by US$2.5 million
- increase the functional area of coral reefs, mangroves and seagrass by up to 25%
- double the value of these ecosystems for protecting the coast by 2025.
In short, it will help the people of Belize plot a wiser course for managing the incredibly valuable resources their ocean and coast provide.