Volume 72

Assessing Fisher Perceptions of the Territorial User Rights for Fishing (TURF) Program: A Belizean Case Study

Alves, C.L; J.F. Bruno
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Date: November, 2019

Pages: 331-333

Event: Proceedings of the Seventy-Two Annual Gulf and Caribbean Fisheries Institute

City: Punta Cana

Country: Dominican Republic


A major challenge facing subsistence fisheries is gaining support for sustainable management, ensuring the longevity of coastal resources for livelihood and ecosystem benefits. Territorial User Rights for Fishing (TURFs) have emerged as a possible solution to overfishing by requiring fishers to report their catch, color-code their vessels, and fish in designated areas. Belize was the first country in the Caribbean to nationally implement TURFs, with two pilot sites opening in 2011 and seven sites added in 2017. This is the first study to evaluate how the livelihoods and perceptions of fishers in Belize’s TURF program have changed from the program’s inception in 2011 to present. We administered quantitative surveys to 123 fishers from ten communities, using four TURFs in southern Belize. We compared results to pre-implementation data from 2011 and 2014 to determine the effect of TURF participation on fishers’ livelihoods and opinions. Preliminary data indicate fishers overall have positive perceptions about TURF participation, but are dissatisfied with illegal fishing by unlicensed transboundary fishers. Over 65% of respondents know the rules for obtaining and renewing their license, but only 43% see the benefits of catch reporting. 70% of respondents support the TURF program in the long run, but 62% report observing illegal fishing behavior. These data suggest a need to educate fishers about the benefits of accurate catch reporting, improve enforcement, and develop fisher empowerment programs. While the TURF program in Belize is fairly new, the lessons learned can be applied to other small-scale fisheries contexts. This study indicates the importance of evaluating fishers’ perceptions of marine policies and provides science-based advice for sustaining fishers’ livelihoods while preserving marine resources.

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