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Environmental Crime Legal Framework in Belize

According to the preamble of the Belize Constitution, “the people of Belize require policies of state which… protects the environment, promotes cooperation among nations and respect for international law and treaty obligations.”

The Belize Legislature enacts laws for environmental protection, aligning itself with international environmental laws stated by international treaties and agreements.

Featured Legislation

1989: The Department of the Environment (DOE) was formed, working within the Ministry of Forestry and Sustainable Development.

1993: The Environmental Protection Act (EPA) was passed, entrusting the Department of the Environment with a broad range of functions relating:

  • To the protection of the environment, including the assessment of water pollution.
  • The coordination of activities relating to the discharge of wastes.
  • The licensing of activities that may cause water pollution.
  • The registration of sources of pollution and the carrying out of research and investigations as to the causes, nature and extent of water pollution and the necessary prevention and control measures.

1995: The Environmental Impact Assessment Regulations (S.I. 107) was created, requiring that any project or activity which may have significant impact on the environment may be required to carry out an assessment.

1995: The Environmental Protection (Effluent Limitations) Regulations (S.I. 94) and the Pollution Regulations (S.I. 56) were passed, controlling the discharge of effluents into any inland water or marine environment.

2002: The Pollution Regulations were amended to include commitments made under the Montreal Protocol on Ozone Depleting Substances. Noteworthy changes included a prohibition on the imports of equipment using ozone depleting substances, and a licensing system for the importation of said substances.

2007: The Environmental Impact Assessment Regulations were amended to include Environmental Compliance Plans for approved projects, environmental studies, and appeal processes with the establishment of a Tribunal.

2009: The Hazardous Waste Regulations were brought into force, aiming to control the trans-boundary movement, storage and treatment of hazardous wastes.

2016: National Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan (2016 – 2020) As a signatory of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) (the global framework for the protection and wise use of biodiversity), Belize also has a commitment to ensuring that the National Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan covers: conservation of biological diversity sustainable use of the components of biological diversity fair and equitable sharing of the benefits arising from the utilisation of genetic resources. The National Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan is based on Belize’s commitment to the conservation and sustainable development of national biological diversity. The Action Plan is focused on achieving the national NBSAP vision, based on fifteen guiding principles grouped under four areas – respect, responsibility, environmental context and commitment.

2020: The Fisheries Resources Act No.7 of 2020 was enacted. This Act lays down rules for long-term conservation, management and sustainable use of fisheries resources of Belize through best practices, protection of the marine environment, biodiversity conservation, ecosystem preservation, prevention of overfishing, the establishment of effective data collection systems, strengthened governance and effective enforcement of and compliance with conservation measures, and improvement of the welfare and livelihoods of fishers and fishing communities. The Fisheries Council is established as an advisory body to be responsible for the conservation, management and development of fisheries. To this end, the duties of the Fisheries Council are to develop and implement comprehensive fisheries policies, monitor and evaluate the implementation of conservation measures and fisheries policies, and to promote coordination and cooperation in the fields of fisheries with all relevant stakeholders. In order to ensure the conservation, management and development of fisheries, this Act sets forth provisions on the determination of total allowable catch, the development of fisheries management plans, the designation of fishing priority areas, the determination of species requiring special measures, and active participation of all stakeholders, including NGOs, fishing organizations, local communities and fishers, in fisheries management and conservation. Moreover, this Act sets forth provisions on the declaration of fishing areas and marine and inland water reserves; terms and conditions of fishing license for foreign and local fishers; regional cooperation in fisheries, fisheries access agreements and licensing of foreign fishing vessels; port state measures to fight against IUU fishing; prohibited fishing gear and methods; registration of fishing vessels authorized to fish within the Belize waters; establishment and inspection of and requirements for mariculture facilities; monitoring, control and surveillance in ports of Belize and the powers of fisheries officers; and offences and penalties in case of violation of the provisions of this Act and regulations. The Minister may make regulations to give effect to the provisions of this Act.

2020: The Environmental Protection (Pollution from Plastics) Regulation was approved, addressing the importation, manufacture, sale and possession of prohibited and restricted single-use plastics and styrofoam products.

2020: The Radiation Safety and Security Act (No. 31) was signed, providing for the safe, secure, and peaceful uses of nuclear technology.

Featured Case Studies: Transnational Environmental Crime, Human Security, and Biosecurity

  • Toothless law enforcement and porous borders between Belize and Guatemala encourage eco-traffickers to advance their criminal endeavors, The trafficking of natural resources such as rosewood and colorful scarlet macaws is a lucrative enterprise in the Maya Biosphere Reserve, located across northern Guatemala and central Belize’s Chiquibul National Park. Financed by powerful actors in Asia, local farmers in Belize and Guatemala smuggle fauna and flora and then transport the contraband to intermediaries and corrupt government officials through strategic ports.
  • Attempts to lift Belize out of poverty have resulted in ecological degradation. Since 2010: Rates of deforestation have accelerated, with over 48 square miles (12,632 hectares) of rainforest lost per year. One of the main drivers of deforestation is illegal logging, which is rampant along the Guatemalan border. The majority of the felled rosewood timber is exported to China, with a new demand for mahogany – Belize’s national tree. Belize’s pristine Chiquibul Forest has also been targeted by miners from Guatemala who destroy ecosystems in search of precious metals.

References and Further Reading


Belize Department of the Environment: