||Evaluating Local Access to Seafood in Urban Belize City
Small developing countries such as Belize face the dilemma of choosing between using
their fisheries catch domestically to feed the population, which preserves cultural
diet, or processing and exporting this catch internationally to contribute to GDP,
which stimulates the Belizean economy. This study used social survey methods to
assess the Belize City resident’s perception of seafood availability that considers
the current production levels (supply) and distribution of seafood (access). Results
revealed competition for seafood between the two primary domestic consumers, residents
(households) and tourists (restaurants). Anecdotally, residents detected a reduction
in seafood supply over the years but do not acknowledge reduced access. One inference
is that resident’s view of access to seafood has broadened over the years to include
retail, marketplace/supermarket access (raw seafood), retail/wholesale, cooperative
access (raw seafood), and restaurant access (prepared seafood). These consumers may
either have discontinued buying seafood because of the price or are unwilling to go
to the current market site for health and safety reasons.
An assessment of fisheries policies regarding domestic consumer access showed that
current policies favor export and the tourism sector, since local households must
compete with these groups. Moreover, consumption data for the tourism sector and
residents are lumped together as a group by fisheries managers, and this gives the
false impression that residents receives an adequate and affordable supply of seafood.
In addition to ignoring the economic plight of low income households, current policies
give minimal consideration to the cultural or social values of domestic seafood in
Belizean communities. Future policies should incorporate cultural and social values,
and one step can be the documentation of the allocation of fisheries resources in
more detail. This information could inform economic analysis which is also recommended.
Policy and allocations that could result from this analysis need to consider the residents’
economic, cultural, and social value positions for purchasing seafood; variable demands
such as the fluctuating nature of the tourist industry and international seafood export
industry; and tradeoffs between benefits from domestic consumption (microeconomic)
versus benefits of international consumption (macroeconomic).