Global Fishing Watch Helps Belize Track its Fishing Fleet on the High Seas

Belize shares vessel monitoring data to tackle illegal fishing

@ Enric Sala / National Geographic

The Issue

Just a decade ago, illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing was rampant among vessels flying the flag of Belize. Rogue operators could easily register a vessel under the country’s flag and fish on the high seas with little oversight.

In 2012, the European Union issued Belize with a yellow card for its failure to tackle IUU fishing. This was followed by a red card in 2013, resulting in a ban on seafood imports.

In response, the government took decisive action. Eager to make an improvement, it took control over the national ships registry, instituting various legal changes, and establishing the Belize High Seas Fisheries Unit (BHSFU) to regulate and control its fishing fleet operating on the high seas.

Our Work

In 2021, Belize committed to making its vessel tracking data publicly available on the Global Fishing Watch map through an agreement signed between the BHSFU, our partners at Oceana and us. And since the vessel data was integrated in March 2022, anyone can track the movements of more than 50 Belizean tuna purse-seiners, trawlers and longliners on the high seas. 

As well as increasing fisheries transparency, our tools have significantly enhanced Belize’s ability to monitor and control its fleet. Public data sharing—including lists of authorized vessels—improves surveillance of Belize’s surrounding waters and encourages compliance with regulations. These insights can also help identify unauthorized vessels and those with a history of noncompliance, while vessels that disable their tracking devices or are seen acting illegally or suspiciously can be held accountable.

“The BHSFU is committed to innovative partnerships that support monitoring enforcement measures and activities. Thanks to this joint partnership we will be able to increase our vessel monitoring transparency efforts to better detect and prevent IUU fishing.”

Valarie Lanza,Director, BHSFU

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