Corozal Bay Wildlife Sanctuary (CBWS) is the second largest marine protected area in Belize, encompassing approximately 178,000 acres (72,000 hectares) of the Belize portion of the Mesoamerican Reef’s largest estuarine system, and much of the northern shelf lagoon behind Ambergris Caye. Situated in the north east of Belize, Corozal Bay Wildlife Sanctuary was established in 1998 under the National Park Systems Act of 1981, as part of Belize’s National Protected Areas System, and as part of a transboundary protected area, twinned with the Sanctuario del Manati of Mexico, following Belize /Mexico bilateral agreements.
CBWS lies within a larger river to reef seascape – the Northern Belize Coastal Complex. As part of this seascape, it acts as an important settling basin for sediment and contaminants before they reach the Mesoamerican reef system, helping to maintain the health of Belize’s northern barrier reef and the key tourism destinations of Hol Chan and Caye Caulker. It is also important as part of a transboundary estuarine system, with increasing collaboration between CBWS and its transboundary counterpart to improve conservation outcomes on both sides of the border.
It is also home to a regionally important population of manatees, key bird nesting sites, a regionally important bull shark nursery area and extensive coastal and caye mangroves, as well as supporting local fishermen and tour guides of the area. Five key coastal communities have been identified (Sarteneja, Chunox, Copper Bank, Consejo and Corozal) of which Sarteneja is the most dependent on the marine resources of the CBWS area.