EJN Awards 11 Story Grants to Bolster Blue Economy Journalism in Belize

underwater photo of a reef and marine life
EJN Awards 11 Story Grants to Bolster Blue Economy Journalism in Belize

In 2021, the government of Belize made a commitment to conserve 30% of its ocean and protect the Mesoamerican Reef, the biggest barrier reef in the northern hemisphere. This undertaking, part of the largest debt restructuring for marine conservation to date, could serve as a blueprint for coastal countries around the world. Blue bonds such as these will help maintain marine biodiversity, a critical asset to the $3 trillion per year that the ocean contributes to global gross domestic product (GDP).  

Journalism on the blue economy, or the sustainable use of ocean resources for economic growth, is crucial to informing the public and holding policymakers accountable to their commitments.  

As part of the Strengthening Blue Economy Journalism in Belize project, EJN has awarded nine individual story grants to Belizean journalists who will drive public debate about the blue economy among coastal communities and local, national and regional decisionmakers: 

  • Aaron Humes (Breaking Belize News) will investigate and propose solutions to Stony Coral Tissue Loss Disease, a phenomenon impacting the Mesoamerican Reef, which is critical to Belize’s blue economy.  
  • Alindy Marisol Amaya (KREM) will investigate the status of Belize’s initiatives to control the lionfish invasion, as the five-year national lionfish management strategy draws to a close in 2023. The story will compile data on how the lionfish population has changed in line with the country’s management plan. 
  • Courtney Menzies (Channel 7) will investigate the motives behind illegal fishing and the detrimental effects that fishing in protected areas have on Belize’s export market. 
  • Dion Vansen (San Pedro Sun) will explore the benefits of the sustainable use of blue economy resources while highlighting some of the solutions that the Belizean government and the newly developed Ministry of the Blue Economy have implemented in response to overfishing threats. 
  • Hipolito Novelo (Love FM) will document  the efforts of the Sarteneja Alliance for Conservation and Development to preserve and protect mangroves and seagrass. 
  • Jomarie Lanza (Shamax Productions Plus TV) will highlight the success of mangrove restoration efforts to counteract sea level rise and coastal erosion in the Corozal district of Belize and explore the feasibility of these solutions in other parts of the country.  
  • Jose Sanchez (PGTV) will investigate the success of various NGO’s efforts to restore shallow water coral on the Mesoamerican Reef using microfragmenting,a technique that helps reef ecosystems self-regenerate. 
  • Marco Lopez (Amandala) will look at the recent boom in cruise tourism and resort construction in Belize and investigate how blue carbon sinks may be impacted by these activities. The story will highlight how a stronger intersection between the tourism sector and environmental conservation can provide benefits for both. 
  • Shayanne Dena (Love FM) will highlight the importance of goliath groupers in Belize’s marine ecosystem and their value to the blue economy. 

“For an economy to be blue, it must provide social and economic benefits to local communities for current and future generations, contribute to food security, poverty eradication, livelihoods, equity and political stability,” said EJN’s Latin America Stories Mentor Lucy Calderón Pineda. “That is why strengthening reporting on the blue economy  in Belize will help to uncover where action is still needed to ensure that marine ecosystems remain healthy and thriving to continue to support life for a variety of species, including humans.”  

“To the extent that the population is truthfully and accurately informed about what the blue economy is and how they can participate in achieving the pillars that support it, the well-being of the Mesoamerican region will improve, as they will be more resilient to the impacts of climate change,” she added. 

Four journalists will also be supported with two collaborative grants to work together on investigations that will examine issues, solutions and developments in Belize’s efforts to shore up the blue economy: 

  • Hipolito Novelo and Jose Sanchez (Love FM, PGTV) will compare reef restoration efforts between the north and south of Belize, providing a solutions approach as well as digging into the feasibility and success of various NGO initiatives. 
  • Marco Lopez and Andre Habet (Amandala, Plus TV) will investigate the environmental impact assessment process in Belize as it relates to three major projects connected to Belize’s marine environment over the past 20 years. The collaboration will also compare the feasibility of strategies and investigate current gaps in Belize’s environmental regulations. 

"We're very excited about having multiple story collaborations as part of the Blue Economy project,” said EJN Special Project Editor Sam Schramski. “The media landscape in Belize has traditionally been resistant to the idea of collaborating because competition is fierce and the pool of reporters in the country somewhat limited. But we've been able to put together a cohort that is excited about breaking down these barriers." 

The project is funded by The Summit Foundation. Look out for the stories from these grantees in the coming months on the EJN website

Banner image: Marine life on the Mesoamerican Reef / Credit: Colter Olmstead via Unsplash

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