Belize spiny lobster - free-diving and casitas

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The small-scale and artisanal lobster fisheries of Belize began in the mid-to-late 1950s, with species harvested mainly for export to the United States. Today, the fisheries sector contributes significantly to the economy of Belize, ranking 5th in export earnings in 2015. Spiny lobster and queen conch are the most productive capture fisheries, with more than 90 percent of catch exported to the U.S. The Belize spiny lobster stock is part of a larger target stock that ranges from North Carolina to Brazil including Bermuda, the Gulf of Mexico, West Indies and Caribbean. 

Fishermen harvest lobster and conch from the shallow waters of the barrier reef and offshore atolls using two types of vessels: small wooden sailboats and fiberglass skiffs. Sailboat fishers often fish for six to ten days and carry approximately eight dugout canoes and up to ten fishers, who free-dive and collect conch and lobster by hand using a hook stick. Fishers using skiffs are at sea for varying periods of time, usually two to three days and at times up to a week. Skiff fishers generally use traps or shades (casitas) to attract lobster and harvest using either hand, hook stick, noose/lasso or jamo net. The fleet pursuing the stock that will be part of the FIP is defined as fishers legally licensed by the Belize Fisheries Department and are members of the National Fishermen Cooperative or Northen Fishing Cooperative in Belize. 

 National Fishermen Cooperative and Northern Cooperative are the two largest fishing cooperatives in Belize, representing approximately 80 percent of Belize’s 2700+ commercial fishers combined.  These Co-ops and two private companies are currently the only entities allowed to export lobster, with an average of 500,000 lbs of lobster tails are exported annually. According to Belizean law, the fishing cooperatives are required to sell 5% of their lobster to local markets. The rest is exported, mainly to the U.S. 

FIP Description 

The small-scale and artisanal lobster fisheries of Belize began in the mid-to-late 1950s, with species harvested mainly for export to the United States.

FIP Objective(s) 

The Belize casita and free-diving (hook stick) spiny lobster FIP seeks to generate environmental, economic, and social benefits by engaging national and international stakeholders in an expanded approach to fishery improvement that results in measurable change by 2024. To achieve this goal, the FIP aims to meet the following objectives:  

(1) To test the validity and potential of a FIP+ model (Environment, Social and Economic) as a way of enhancing FIP progress in Belizean Lobster throughout 2020-2025 and use this as a test case for other fisheries globally; 
(2) To coordinate  and continuously promote the collaboration of national and international stakeholders of the Belizean lobster fishery to  work on improvement across environmental, social and economic components of the fishery throughout the life of the FIP, minimally until Dec 2025;  
(3) To develop a blended finance approach to fund the FIP longterm, beginning in Q1 of 2020; 
(4) To develop and test tools which can support this and other FIP+ projects globally, by end 2021; 
(5) To create measurable change environmentally, socially and economically within the fishery based on an extended FIP+ workplan, by 2025; 
(6) To build social and economic capacity within the Belizean based co-operatives as a way to enhance the co-operatives' ability to engage in environmental improvements longterm, by 2023.

FIP Type 
FIP Stage 
Stage 3: FIP Implementation
Start and Projected End Dates
November 2019
November 2024
Next Progress Report Due 
Monday, January 31, 2022
Common Name 
Spiny Lobster (Caribbean)
Scientific Name
Panulirus argus
Gear Type 
FAO Major Fishing Area
Area 31 (Atlantic, Western Central)
Exclusive Economic Zones
Geographic Scope 
Country Flag of Vessel 
Estimated Total FIP Landings 
709 metric tons
Estimated Total Fishery Landings 
1,009 metric tons
Landings Date 
December 2021

FIP at a Glance

14% 36% 50%
November 01, 2019
14% 36% 50%
Progress Rating

A - Advanced Progress
Reserved for comprehensive FIPs that have a Stage 4 or 5 result within the past 12 months.

B - Good Progress
A FIP that has achieved a Stage 4 or 5 in more than 12 months AND Stage 3 activity in the last year; OR a basic FIP that has achieved Stage 4 or 5 achievements within the past 12 months.

C - Some Recent Progress
A FIP that has achieved a Stage 4 or 5 result in more than 12 (but less than 24) months but has not generated a Stage 3 result within the past 12 months OR a FIP younger than a year that has never achieved a Stage 4 or 5 result but has completed a Stage 3 activity.

D - Some Past Progress
A FIP for which the most recent publicly reported Stage 4 or 5 result is more than 24 (but less than 30) months.

E - Negligible Progress
A FIP older than a year that has not reported a Stage 4 or 5 result in more than 30 month (but less than 36) months; OR a FIP younger than 1 year that has not reported a Stage 3 activity.

The ratings are currently derived by SFP from publicly available data on FIP websites, including, and are determined using the following methodology: View PDF
B Good Progress
Actions Complete

This pie chart represents completed environmental actions. Non-completed environmental actions may contain completed sub-tasks that are not illustrated here. For more information on environmental action progress visit the Actions Progress tab.

  • Complete
  • Incomplete
Next Update Due FisheryProgress requires a FIP to provide update reports every six months, and two missed reports will render the FIP inactive. If a report is overdue, this date will appear red.
Jan 2022
Target End Date
Nov 2024

FIP Leads

Organization Name 
Future of Fish
Organization Type 
Primary Contact 
Marah Hardt
Organization Name 
The Nature Conservancy Belize
Organization Type 
Primary Contact 
Julie Robinson
Organization Name 
National Fishermen's Producers Cooperative Society Ltd.
Organization Type 
Primary Contact 
Elmer Rodriguez
Organization Name 
Blue Ventures
Organization Type 
Primary Contact 
Maritza Rodriguez
+501 672-9074
FIP Identification Number The FIP Identification Number is automatically generated by FisheryProgress when a FIP profile is created. While the number itself is not meaningful, they are used by NGOs, academia, and industry to refer to FIPs in a consistent way.