Southern Environmental Association (SEA) is a non-governmental organization, created in 2008 when two longstanding conservation organizations, Friends of Nature (FoN) and the Toledo Association for Sustainable Tourism and Empowerment (TASTE) merged to ensure improved community involvement in the conservation and co-management of the natural resources in Southern Belize.
SEA’s mission as a Belizean non-governmental organization is to continuously work towards improving stewardship and the environmental integrity of key marine areas in southern Belize through effective, collaborative protected areas management, community involvement, and strategic partnerships for the benefit of all stakeholders.
The Southern Environmental Association co-manages three important marine protected areas in Southern Belize: Gladden Spit and Silk Cayes Marine Reserve, the Sapodilla Cayes Marine Reserve and the Laughing Bird Caye National Park. Both Laughing Bird Caye National Park and Sapodilla Cayes Marine Reserve form a part of the Belize Barrier Reef Reserve System declared by UNESCO in 1996 as a world heritage site.
SEA serves village communities that line the coast of southern Belize, including: Hopkins, Sittee River, Seine Bight, Placencia, Independence, Monkey River, Punta Negra, Punta Gorda and Sarteneja. The organization currently has a staff consisting of administrative, education and outreach, science and enforcement personnel. SEA’s board of directors consists of community leaders and key stakeholder representatives from Tourism, Business and other sectors.
Under a co-management agreement with the Government of Belize, SEA assumes control of site management (including visitation), enforcement, scientific monitoring, research and is authorized to police within and between parks in the Southern Barrier Reef Complex. SEA works closely with the local stakeholder committees who participate in formulating policy that enhance the management of the parks. For the past 18 years, in some form or another, SEA has been working with community members to improve the management of their marine resources. SEA takes a practical, hands on approach to conservation and management of the Southern Barrier Reef Complex.