Graduate Project

Development and implementation of a fish monitoring program for the Port Honduras Marine Reserve, Punta Gorda, Toledo District, Belize

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  • Marine protected areas are increasingly popular tools for fisheries conservation and enhancement worldwide. Monitoring programs that enable managers to track changes in fish stock abundance, size-frequency of target species, and species diversity are critical to evaluating the success of MPA's. The Port Honduras Marine Reserve (PHMR) in southern Belize encompasses approximately 415 square kilometers of shallow, coastal waters with significant mangrove and estuarine habitat. The PHMR is intended to protect and enhance nearby reef fisheries. The management entity, the Toledo Institute for Development and the Environment (TIDE), requested assistance in developing a longterm fish monitoring program to assess the effectiveness of the reserve and guide future regulatory decisions. The Nature Conservancy provided funding for a three month internship with TIDE for this purpose. I worked onsite in Punta Gorda, Belize, to develop a low-cost methodology capable of generating sufficiently thorough and accurate results. I trained TIDE staff and volunteers in the monitoring protocol and in basic analysis and presentation of the results, and made recommendations for long-term implementation of the program. This report examines the PHMR management framework, the monitoring techniques used, and the training programs developed and provided to TIDE staff. Recommendations for the improvement and sustainability of the monitoring program are made.
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