Turneffe Atoll, Belize
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Turneffe Atoll, Belize

TiME’s purchase of a 5-acre plot on Turneffe Atoll has protected part of a global ecological hotspot for marine biodiversity. Turneffe Atoll faces numerous threats because of its close proximity to Belize City, especially unsustainable fishing practices, development and dredging, and the extraction of non-timber products.



The Habitat

Turneffe Atoll is the largest of three offshore atolls located 50 kilometres east of Belize City. Turneffe is one of the best-developed atolls of the Mesoamerican Reef region. It is made up of more than 150 islands of savannah, littoral forest and intact mangrove forests and considered a global ecological hotspot for marine biodiversity. Roughly a quarter of the total land ownership is private and only six locations (80 hectares) have been developed for tourism. The land purchased is a 5-acre plot covered with mangrove and littoral forest along the eastern side of Turneffe Atoll.

Ecoregion: Belizean Reef mangroves (NT1406)

Turneffe Atoll, Belize Coral Fish - This is My Earth

Some of the threatened species now protected in this habitat:

Local Partner NGO

Status of registration of the group at the national level

501(c)(3) Nonprofit Organization (US)

NGO (Belize)

Governance and management structure of the group

TAT was established in 2002 and has two full-time staff members and an eleven-member board of directors. TAT works with the Turneffe Atoll Coastal Advisory Committee, which is comprised of various stakeholders, such as NGOs, governmental agencies, fishermen and private businesses. Over the past ten years TAT has led planning for the conservation of Turneffe Atoll in conjunction with the Belize Coastal Zone Management Authority and Institute. TAT also successfully advocated for catch-and-release legislation and for Turneffe’s designation as a marine reserve.

Conservation Plans

TAT’s active management will address:
1) improper development (clearing and dredging): Once purchased, TAT staff and Turneffe enforcement rangers will be able to monitor the properties and make sure they remain protected from illegal clearing, dredging and development. The enforcement rangers live permanently at Turneffe and are funded through the Turneffe Atoll Sustainability Association (TASA).  Close collaboration with TASA and the rangers will be required as new land is purchased.

2)  Over-, illegal- and out-of-season  harvesting of fish, conch and lobster: Education and employment of local fisherman, catch-and-release  legislation, and daily patrols and enforcement of the marine-reserve regulations are helping to protect land and water resources. These programmes will continue, and TAT will look for new ways to ensure long-term protection through legislative and legal processes. TAT is also embarking on a new program—Land and Water Watch—in which we will work with legal consultants to review environmental assessments of proposed developments and with the Belize Fisheries Department to make sure permits are issued correctly and enforced. This programme will also apply to future land purchases.

TAT will also pursue a UNESCO biosphere-reserve designation for Turneffe. With this designation comes a higher level of national and global protection and more opportunities for funding, enforcement and oversight to help ensure the protection of the atoll and the land that TAT purchases for conservation.



  • We helped stop two very environmentally destructive development projects at Turneffe Atoll. One was near Deadman’s Caye, where there was a proposal to build 12 over-the-water structures on one of the most pristine remaining back reef flats in Turneffe. We were able to collaborate with Turneffe’s stakeholders and sent over 100 letters of opposition as well as a comprehensive review and report on the shortcomings on the Environmental Impact Assessment that was completed for the proposal.
  • We are currently working on the development of a management plan for approximately 17,000 acres of land. Thus far we have managed to execute cadastral surveys of the 17,000 acres and have submitted survey plans to the Government of Belize for authentication. As part of the management plan, we plan to use satellite images as well as drone images to monitor changes in forest cover, hurricane damage and other natural disasters, such as fire.
  • We are working closely with Turneffe Flats Resort to create a closer collaboration and some funding opportunities.
  • We continue to work with a network of fly-fishing guides that are out fishing every week and collect information for us on development activities on Turneffe Atoll as a whole.