Destinations Belize


Belize Whale Shark
Conservation and Research

During the last 12 years, the Belize barrier reef near Placencia (Gladden Spit) has been the focus of whale shark research, primarily by Rachel Graham, the 2011 recipient of the prestigious Whitley Gold Award.

Rachel's work has assessed how marine reserves could be better designed and managed to protect the whale shark and has provided much-needed new information on the population, ecology, movements and behaviour of whale sharks, including the large seasonal grouping of whale sharks on the southern Belize Barrier Reef.

In large part based on Rachel's work, Belize has undertaken to protect whale sharks from the threats of irresponsible tourism by establishing the Gladden Spit Marine Reserve off the Placencia coast, and enacting community-based Whale Shark Interaction Regulations.

The Gladden Spit Marine Reserve was officially established on Thursday, 18 May 2000, with opening ceremonies on the Silk Cayes, and the Reserve consists of a General Use Zone and a Conservation Zone.

The Southern Environmental Association (SEA), a local environmental/conservation organization that manages the marine reserves and parks off the Placencia coast, holds annual community meetings to discuss and fine tune Whale Shark Interaction Regulations based on the experiences of local whale shark tour operators and tour guides, local fishermen and interested communty members.


The goals of the Regulations are to (i) protect the whale sharks from over-exploitation; (ii) avoid conflict with other users of Gladden Spit such as commercial artesenal fishermen;  (iii) protect the Gladden Spit marine environment; and (iv) provide a level playing field for local guides and tour operators to ensure an equal opportunity to participate in the benefits of whale shark tourism.

Destinations Belize
US Phone:  561-315-6161
Belize Phone:  011-501-610-4718

US Fax:  603-386-6632