In 1997, a group of Belizean environmentalists was determined to prevent the destruction of Toledo’s incredible ecosystems. The local manatee population, in particular, was being devastated by intense hunting and gill net use along Belize’s coast.
With support from The Nature Conservancy, they formed the Toledo Institute for Development and Environment (TIDE). TIDE rallied the local fishing community and successfully petitioned the Government of Belize to establish the Port Honduras Marine Reserve, bringing 100,000 acres of marine habitat under legal protection and safeguarding some of the healthiest coral reefs in the entire Mesoamerican Reef, as well as important fish nursery grounds, sea turtle nesting beaches, critically endangered staghorn and elkhorn corals, and, of course, the manatees.
Because local fishers were no longer allowed to use destructive gill nets in the new reserve, TIDE organized a net buy-back project and retrained 60 fishers as tour guides, taking advantage of the area’s potential as a world-class fly-fishing destination.