The three protected areas where fish recovery sites and co-management areas have been declared (Punta de Manabique in Guatemala, Cuero y Salado in Honduras and Puerto Morelos in Mexico) have had important advances. In Punta de Manabique Wildlife Refuge, Guatemala, several meetings were held to discuss the expansion of the fish recovery sites and the best way to do it. Both the park administration and the fishing communities have agreed to proceed in the best interests of the fishing communities involved. Because the expansion of two of the three recovery sites includes the coastline and mangroves, they made sure to not include daily community travel waterways to avoid the temptation of not respecting the sites by local fishermen and outsiders. The expansion of the two sites will be formally implemented on the ground early in the second quarter of 2016.
The local stores that were established to be run by the women of each community involved in the fish recovery sites are all in operation. At these stores, the communities can purchase basic food and over-the-counter medicines, among other items, saving on boat trips to Puerto Barrios, which is the nearest city, and thus reducing their fuel expenses.
During 2015, FUCSA, the NGO that co-administrates Barras de Cuero y Salado Wildlife Refuge in Honduras, completed the systematization of its experience working with APROCUS, the local fishing association that co-manages the fish recovery sites within the refuge. FUCSA also submitted a proposal to update and reactivate the co-management agreement for the fish recovery sites. This initiative, currently under development, has the overall objective of ensuring effective implementation of the co-management agreement, and three specific objectives: to update the co-management agreement signed between APROCUS, FUCSA, and ICF and DIGEPESCA, the protected areas and fisheries authorities, respectively; to implement the priority actions described in the agreement; and to strengthen the capacities of the signatories of the agreement, promoting participatory management.
The CONANP (parks authority in Mexico) in Puerto Morelos National Park suffered internal modifications and budget reductions and recently had a change of director. COBI, the organization that began the establishment of fish recovery sites in Mexico, and the fishing cooperative that operates in Puerto Morelos, were both committed to the monitoring of fisheries resources in the fish recovery site established in the south part of the park. Even though the recovery site has not been legally established, fishermen respect it and don't fish inside of it.
There has also been progress in an additional two protected areas MAR Fund is supporting for the creation and management of fish recovery sites, one in Guatemala and one in Honduras. In Rio Sarstun Multiple Use Area, Guatemala, the management plans for Barra Sarstun/Laguna Grande and Cocol fish refuges were designed using the information generated during the monitoring exercises developed inside and outside the proposed fish recovery sites. Five fishermen from the communities of Cocol, Tampico, Barra Sarstun and Creek Chino were certified in open water scuba diving and the AGRRA monitoring methodology with the objective of involving and empowering them in the monitoring of the fish recovery sites. In addition, the fish collection Center of San Juan Village was equipped, and its business plan was designed and approved by the community.
The agreement for the legal establishment of the Barra Sarstun/Laguna Grande fish recovery site is following solid steps to be signed between CONAP (the Guatemalan protected areas authority), FUNDAECO (the protected area co-administrator) and Barra Sarstun and Laguna Grande fishing communities. There has been a delay due to a change of staff in CONAP. However, they expect to sign the agreement during the second quarter of 2016.
In Honduras, the Cuyamel Omoa National Park fish recovery site, named PAMUCH (Paraiso-Muchilena-Chachaaguala), was legally established in December, 2015. The patrolling plan for the Cuyamel-Omoa marine area, designed by CCO, the NGO that co-administrates the protected area, has consolidated the joint coordination of authorities and community members in the National Park for control and surveillance activities. The guardhouse built inside the fish recovery site continues to provide a strategic location for aquatic and terrestrial joint patrols.
In Belize, a new partner, Sarteneja Alliance for Conservation and Development (SACD), designed a project to expand Managed Access into Corozal Bay Wildlife Sanctuary in Northern Belize, which they are co-managers of. Managed Access is a system where traditional fishermen are granted fishing rights based on a series of pre-agreed criteria to fish in specific fishing grounds. The long term goal of the project is to establish a Managed Access framework for the sustainable use of the resources of the protected area, providing a model for other small-scale community-based coastal fisheries in the region. The specific objectives are: engagement and participation of 80 to 100 percent of local fishermen in the Managed Access process; effective integration of fish recovery sites into management zoning for effective protection of fish nursery sites; and increased, effective surveillance and enforcement presence of 20 percent above the 2016 baseline.