Belize Fisheries Project Partners

Project Partners: Organizations

Circle containing two people touching hands overhead which standing in the waves

Comunidad y Biodiversidad (COBI) is a Mexican non-profit organization that works closely with small-scale fishing communities in the Pacific Ocean, Gulf of California, Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean. COBI joins the Belize Shared Vision to support activities with stakeholders, share our extensive scientific and local knowledge with project partners and document the role of women and youth in Mesoamerican Reef fisheries in the context of FAO´s small-scale fishery guidelines.

Meet the COBI Team

Dr. María José Espinosa-Romero is the CEO of Comunidad y Biodiversidad (COBI), a Mexican non-profit organization that promotes sustainable fishing and marine conservation in Latin America and the Caribbean through community-based approaches. She is also the co-founder of the Innovación Azul Initiative. She received her PhD degree in Governance and Public Policy from the United Nations University and Maastricht University (UNU-MERIT), Netherlands, and her Master’s degree in Natural Resource Management and Environmental Studies from the University of British Columbia, Canada.

Stuart Fulton has a Masters in Oceanography from Southampton University, UK, and is currently the Director of Change at Comunidad y Biodiversidad (COBI) in Mexico where he coordinates work with small-scale fishers and fishing organizations in the Pacific, Gulf of California, Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean. He has lived and worked in the Mesoamerican Reef since 2008, working closely with fishers in Mexico to create the first network of fish refuges in the Mexican Caribbean. Stuart was part of the MAR Leadership 2016 cohort and has published research on citizen science in fisheries, fish spawning aggregations and community marine reserves.

Omar Rivera-Garibay has a Master's in Sustainability Science from the Universidad Nacional Autonoma de México and is currently a Mentor of Change at Comunidad y Biodiversidad (COBI) in Mexico. He works closely with coastal communities on community participation in marine conservation projects, providing support in strengthening capacities to promote citizen science. Omar has been working and living in the Mesoamerican Reef for the last 6 years, focusing particularly on issues related to the monitoring of coral reef ecosystems, fish communities, and the socio-environmental impacts of marine pollution.

Miriam Velázquez has a Master's in Marine Environmental Management from the University of York, UK, and is currently the Youth Specialist at Comunidad y Biodiversidad (COBI) in Mexico. She works closely with young fishers, accompanying their integration process in the small scale fishing sector, and coordinating the agents of change program providing support in strengthening technical capacities and soft skills to promote knowledge transfer related to fishing sustainability and marine conservation. Miriam has experience working with youth, knowledge transfer, and implementation of community projects in rural and coastal areas.


The Environmental Law Institute (ELI) fosters innovative, just, and practical law and policy solutions to challenging environmental issues, through nonpartisan research, publications, and outreach.  ELI's Ocean Program works to identify and promote better tools, management approaches, and governance systems for water resources and ocean management domestically and internationally.  We support ocean management systems that are based on local priorities, inclusive and effective processes, and best available  information to reverse degradation from land-based activities, ensure effective management of industrialized oceans, and foster sustainable fisheries.

Meet the ELI Team

Elly Beckerman is a Research Associate at ELI. As part of the Belize fisheries project, she provides technical assistance with the website, Facebook page, and monitors email communications with stakeholders. She is interested in sustainable food systems, preserving livelihoods in the face of changing climactic conditions, and creating livable communities. 

Dr. Rebecca Kihslinger is the Senior Science and Policy Analyst at ELI and Director of ELI’s Wetlands Program. Rebecca has expertise in wetland law, policy, science and management as well as climate adaptation and hazard mitigation. Rebecca’s work includes promoting partnerships among agencies, organizations, and other stakeholders and building the capacity of communities to identify risks and vulnerabilities, plan for the future, and develop projects that build resilience and meet local needs. Rebecca is a trained facilitator, and she has facilitated workshops and meetings on numerous topics. Dr. Kihslinger earned a PhD in Animal Behavior from University of California, Davis and a BS in marine science from the University of South Carolina, Honors College. 

Sofia O’Connor is a Senior Attorney and Director of the Ocean Program at ELI. Sofia has expertise in ocean governance, small-scale fisheries, fisheries co-management, marine spatial planning, marine tenure, marine protected areas, marine litter, and climate change adaptation. She has led projects, conducted research, prepared comparative legal analysis, and drafted laws and regulations internationally. Sofia has extensive experience engaging in consultations with government officials, communities, experts, and regional partners to identify needs, advise on comparative best practices, reach consensus among different stakeholders, and build capacity. Sofia is a co-author of ELI’s Law and Governance Toolkit for Sustainable Small-Scale Fisheries

Healthy Reefs for Healthy People Initiative Logo

Healthy Reefs for Healthy People Initiative (HRI) is a globally unique international collaborative program of over 70 coral reef-focused research, management and conservation organizations dedicated to safeguarding the Mesoamerican Reef in Mexico, Belize, Guatemala and Honduras. For over 15 years, HRI has provided training in reef monitoring and data entry to 300 local field biologists who now implement science-based management and restoration interventions. HRI monitors the entire Mesoamerican Reef and produces popular reef health Report Cards that include specific management recommendations; followed by periodic evaluations of the extent of their implementation by each country (Eco-Audits). HRI also leads Bleach and Disease Watch surveys and developed a herbivory restoration through king crab mariculture program, among others. It aims to improve the health of the Mesoamerican reef, the livelihoods of those that depend on it, and the global benefits the reef provides, through improved science-based, collaborative and adaptive management. 

Meet the HRI Team

Dr. Melanie McField is the founder and Director of the Healthy Reefs for Healthy People Initiative (HRI), a multi-institutional effort of over 70 partner organizations that tracks the health of the Mesoamerica reef ecosystem and evaluates progress implementing management strategies aimed at ensuring its long-term integrity. Melanie is an innovative marine scientist with 30 years of experience in the development of ecosystem health indicators, the application of conservation science to management, and a proven track record of achieving conservation results while cultivating professional partnerships, collaborations, technical capacity building, mentoring, and development of public awareness and communications products. She earned a PhD in Marine Science from the University of South Florida and returned to Belize where she lived for over 20 years. Melanie has over 50 research papers, numerous book chapters, and has mentored over a dozen graduate students. She has also received several awards, including the 2021 Conservation Award from the International Coral Reef Society and has participated in numerous documentaries about the Mesoamerian Reef.

Raphael Martinez currently serves as the Belize Country Coordinator for the Healthy Reef for Healthy People Initiative. His academic background includes a bachelor's degree in Natural Resource Management from the University of Belize and a master’s degree in Disaster Risk Management and Climate Governance from Isabella I Private University in Spain.  His professional journey included a significant tenure as the Reserve Manager at Glover's Reef Marine Reserve, where his responsibilities encompassed team management, active surveillance of reserve activities, enforcement of fisheries laws and regulations, and active participation in research and data collection initiatives. He has specialized training in Stony Coral Tissue Loss Disease Monitoring and Treatment, Seaweed Cultivation, Rapid Response & Emergency Reef Restoration, and AGGRA Fish Surveyor training, among others.

MRAG Americas logo

MRAG Americas is a private consulting and auditing company focused on activities that support the conservation of marine and freshwater ecosystems through responsible, rational and sustainable use of fish and other aquatic resources. Our work is spread across four Client Service Divisions: the Fisheries Technical Division; the Certification Division; the Sustainable Seafood Initiatives and Auditing Division; and the Fisheries Monitoring Division. MRAG Americas is accredited to assess conformance with the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC), Responsible Fisheries Management (RFM) and Fairness Integrity Safety Health (FISH) standards. We also undertake Fishery Improvement Projects (FIPs), and other activities to assist fisheries on their path towards full certification. MRAG Americas has conducted sustainability analyses of queen conch and spiny lobster fisheries in the Caribbean region over the past 12 years.

Meet the MRAG Team

Dr. Andrew (Andy) Rosenberg is President of MRAG Americas. Over four decades as a leading expert in renewable resource management, Andy has served in senior positions in government, academia, and non-profit institutions as a scientist, policymaker, and advisor. For the past ten years he has been the founding director of the Center for Science and Democracy at the Union of Concerned Scientists. Previously, he served as Chief Scientist for Conservation International, a professor and Dean at the University of New Hampshire, Deputy Director of NOAA’s National Marine Fisheries Service, and NMFS Northeast Regional Administrator.  He also has served as the U.S. lead representative in several international fishery management organizations such as NAFO, NASCO, and FAO. Andy has also been a lead author and member of numerous high-level science and policy boards and commissions including the US Commission on Ocean Policy, the Third US National Climate Change Impacts Assessment, The National Academy of Science America’s Climate Choices Study, the First World Ocean Assessment, the International Transboundary Waters Assessment and many more.  Andy’s scientific work is in the field of population dynamics, resource assessment, and resource management policy.  

Dr. Graeme Parkes is Vice President: Project Management at MRAG Americas, based in St Petersburg, Florida. He is a fisheries management specialist with thirty five years of professional experience, with specializations including sustainable certification, fisheries evaluation, assessment and management, resource assessment, and fishing capacity management. Graeme has a Masters in Oceanography from Southampton University and a Ph.D. in fisheries science from Imperial College, London. He was a fisheries expert on UK delegation to the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR) for 20 years and is a past member of the EU Scientific, Technical and Economic Committee for Fisheries (STECF). 

Carolina Vargas has 12 years of experience in sustainability consulting and auditing with a focus on social accountability. She has supported supply chain actors in the Americas, where she has performed +500 audits. One of her main focuses is the assessment of social compliance risks across the supply chain, where communication between stakeholders is essential.  Her latest projects include sustainability and regulatory assessment focusing on ecological and social risks-International Finance Corporation (IFC) / January 2022; Lead auditor for Pilot certification under The FISH Standard for Crew / March 2022; and Social Risk Pre-Assessment based on Social Responsibility Assessment Tool / September 2022. 

An image showing orange and white fish in a blue sea, with a blue magnifying glass looking at an image of data over top

The Sea Around Us is a research initiative at the University of British Columbia. The program assesses the impact of fisheries on the marine ecosystems of the world and offers mitigating solutions to a range of stakeholders.

The Sea Around Us was initiated in collaboration with The Pew Charitable Trusts in 1999, and in 2014, the Sea Around Us also began a collaboration with The Paul G. Allen Family Foundation to provide African and Asian countries with more accurate and comprehensive fisheries data. At present, it is funded by a number of charitable organizations (see our Partners page for more information).

We provide data and analyses through Tools and Data, peer-reviewed journal articles, and a News section. We regularly update our products at the scale of countries’ Exclusive Economic Zones, Large Marine Ecosystems, the High Seas and other spatial scales, and as global maps and summaries.

We emphasize catch time series starting in 1950 to the near present, and related series (e.g., landed value and catch by flag state, fishing sector, fishing gear and catch type), and fisheries-related information on every maritime country (e.g., government subsidies, marine biodiversity).

The information and data presented on the Sea Around Us website is freely available to any user.

Meet the Sea Around Us Team

Dr. Daniel Pauly is a world-renowned fisheries scientist. He is currently the Principal Investigator of the Sea Around Us initiative, a large research project devoted to identifying and quantifying global fisheries trends. He is also a Killam professor at the University of British Columbia’s Institute for the Oceans and Fisheries. The concepts, methods and software which Daniel Pauly led and co-developed are documented in over 1000 scientific and general-interest publications, and are used throughout the world. This applies to the Ecopath modeling approach and software and FishBase, the online encyclopedia of more than 30,000 fish species, which was recently complemented by SeaLifeBase. He is a recipient of numerous awards, including the International Cosmos Prize, the Volvo Environment Prize, the Nierenberg Prize and the Frontiers of Knowledge Award in Ecology and Conservation Biology. He was named France’s Chevalier de la Legion D’Honneur in 2017. 

Dr. Maria L.D. Palomares (Deng) is the senior scientist and manager of the Sea Around Us research unit at the Institute for the Oceans and Fisheries of the University of British Columbia (Vancouver, Canada). She worked with the FishBase global information system on fishes since its inception in 1989, and is the current FishBase Consortium Coordinator. In 2006, she co-created the SeaLifeBase global information system on invertebrates and vertebrates other than fish with Daniel Pauly and leads SeaLifeBase at the Quantitative Aquatics where she is also the Science Director. Deng applied the stock assessment model developed by Rainer Froese and colleagues to over 1400 exploited marine species worldwide using the Sea Around Us catch data, resilience and population parameters from FishBase and SeaLifeBase. She applies this unique mix of expertise to the Belize Fisheries Project to provide assessments of the evolution of these species since their fisheries started in the 1950s (or earlier) and estimate what is left of their biomass in Belizean waters.

Valentina Ruiz-Leotaud is a Venezuelan-born multimedia journalist. She has +15 years of work experience covering local and international news for different media outlets and platforms. She holds a Master’s Degree in Journalism from the University of British Columbia and was a fellow of the International Reporting Program. She joined the Sea Around Us in 2016 and has, since then, been in charge of the media outreach aimed at bringing public attention to the project’s research. She’s also proficient in all things social media.


Project Partners: Individuals

This project has benefited from the expertise of additional individuals.

Meet Additional Partners

Dr. Alexander Tewfik is trained in both fisheries (M.S.) and ecology (Ph.D.). He is an affiliated scientist with the Coastal Ocean Association of Science and Technology (COAST). His investigations focus on the impacts of overfishing, physical disturbance, and pollution in seagrass beds, sandy beaches and coral reefs. His work has been published in a number of peer-reviewed journals including Ecology, Fisheries Research, Aquatic Conservation, Fisheries Management and Ecology, Marine Pollution Bulletin, and Restoration Ecology. Alex has spent much of his career living and working in communities that depend on healthy fisheries and marine habitats including Jamaica, Turks and Caicos Islands, Dominican Republic, and Belize as well as extended field periods in Indonesia and the Solomon Islands. Access Alex's research on Google Scholar and ResearchGate.


Funding for this project is provided by The Summit Foundation.

The Summit Foundation Logo -- A circle with the letters T, S, and F next to the name of the organization.

Established in 1991, The Summit Foundation, a private family foundation, is committed to a world where people can thrive and nature can flourish – a world in which one is not sacrificed for the other. For more than 20 years, The Summit Foundation’s Mesoamerican Reef Program has been supporting efforts to restore and protect a healthy and resilient Mesoamerican Reef ecosystem capable of contributing to human well-being.