Coastal Resource Management within Placencia, Belize: Analysis of Challenges and Opportunities in Caribbean Development

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This student field practicum was conducted through the Masters of Sustainable Development Practice program (MDP), as facilitated through the Latin American and African Studies Departments at the University of Florida. The host organization Southern Environmental Association (S.E.A) is the nationally sponsored (district) conservation management authority in Belize and facilitates the collection of environmental data and the enforcement of federal regulations. Field research took place from May 16 to August 1 of 2016 within the terrestrial and marine ecological management zones surrounding Placencia Village, located in the Stann Creek District of Belize. This area includes the village of Placencia, Placencia Lagoon, and the Gladden Split Silk Caye Marine Reserve (G.S.S.C.M.R).

Positioned at the tip of Belize’s southern peninsula, Placencia provides important economic services for the region, facilitating commerce for industries that include fishing, tourism, hospitality, and real estate development. Over the past two decades, foreign investment and global exposure have improved economic outcomes and resource access for many residents, but also fostered social and environmental challenges. Coupled with semi-intensive extraction of biological resources, the impacts of development are resulting in a degradation of environmental quality that affects the same resources the region is reliant upon. As one of the nation’s economic hubs, the village is rapidly developing through tourism and foreign real estate investment ( In order to sustain their community, it is necessary for stakeholders to have a holistic understanding of the challenges associated with a future marked by economic, climate, and resource uncertainties.

The critical habitat surrounding Placencia supports research that directly aids in national and international efforts to monitor and manage spawning aggregation data for targeted pelagic species across the Caribbean, while also serving as the evaluation metric for seasonal commercial fishing limits. By collecting quantitative and qualitative data related to monitoring strategies, environmental conditions, and stakeholder-identified concerns, this practicum report seeks to provide a resource to area managers, investors, and residents. By sustainably developing social and environmental resources, stakeholders can increase the opportunity pathways for greater participation in current and future resource decision-making processes while promoting multi-stakeholder platforms and community-centered models in Caribbean coastal planning.

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