Working in partnership with the Belizean Government, and conservation NGOs, the Bertarelli Foundation committed funding to ensure the long-term management and viability of new reserve, which is the country’s largest and covers a total area of more than 1,300km2. The atoll provides a nursery and feeding habitat for at least thirty species and the wider area, with its deep water passages, provides an important habitat for open sea species such as marlin, sailfish, kingfish and shark. With the creation of this reserve, over a fifth of Belize’s territorial waters are now under some form of protection.
The importance of the Turneffe reserve is not just in its biological and ecological significance, though this cannot be overstated. It also lies in the fact that the atoll is home to local communities who depend upon it for their livelihood. Thus the reserve has the potential to become an exemplar for a new approach to marine conservation – one that takes place in tandem with the needs of local populations.
It is very much the Bertarelli Foundation’s intention – and one that Turneffe’s inhabitants and the Belizean Government share – that the reserve should not just protect the marine ecosystem, but that it should also benefit local people. Sustainable fishing initiatives and the support and control of tourism will together secure the future of the Turneffe Atoll and of those who live there.