Written by: Alex Courtenay
All too often the fight to protect and conserve the environment is left to NGOs and career conservationists. As laws change and resolutions are made, it is easy to forget that every person and every business has the same responsibility. In Belize, where the preservation of nature is so closely linked to the success and growth of the country, it is becoming increasingly important for the private sector to get involved. Afterall, it is only through universal cooperation that we can ensure the safety of the environment. Tiburon, a less than a decade old rum distillery, is one Belize-based company committed to pulling their weight in this endeavour.
Over the last seven-ish years, Tiburon has been making a name for itself on the international market. The rum, dubbed the ‘Spirit of Belize’, has appeared in almost two dozen international competitions, and has taken home awards in every single one. While Tiburon has been lauded for its taste, it’s founder Basil DeSteffano, has attributed its steadily increasing popularity to a mix of flavour and attractive design. DeSteffano says that his rum stands out from other aged rums, which have been designated as an “old man drink” by younger generations. Tiburon has even caught the attention of a former executive from Zacapa (a well-known Guatemalan rum) who praised it for making “drinking aged rum cool.”
DeSteffano is an avid diver, it’s the reason he first came to Belize. So, it makes sense that the cornerstone of the rum brand’s design comes straight from the sea. An image of a “tiburon”, Spanish for shark, is found on every bottle. DeStefano’s wife designed the logo, which is based on a face-to-face view photo of a shark that he once kept on his desk. From its very inception, Tiburon has been connected to the sea.
The idea of manufacturing a Belizean rum came to DeSteffano while he was spending time in his home in San Pedro. So, it makes sense that the sea was on DeSteffano’s mind when thinking about how the company could give back. Belize’s barrier reef not only serves as the country’s top tourist attraction but provides jobs for a large portion of the population.
Keeping the barrier reef and the marine environment healthy has become increasingly important, as they are so closely connected to the country’s economic growth. While Belize’s fisheries sector has seen a tremendous decline in the last decade, thanks an aquaculture crisis, it is being held up by the fishing industry which ranks as Belize’s third largest foreign exchange earner. Fisheries also plays a major role in the development of many rural communities, and fish serves as a staple source of protein for those along the coast.
Meanwhile, tourism is one of Belize’s largest industries – accounting for more than 1/3 of the country’s annual GDP. Hundreds of thousands of people journey to Belize for a chance to swim and dive with everything from conch and lobsters at the seabed to gentle giants like whale sharks and manta rays. The coast and cayes are also popular draws harsh winters, as well as those who just need a relaxing break. In all cases, the reef’s importance to Belize cannot be understated – making a prime target for those who want to protect the environment.
With years of diving experience under his belt, DeSteffano developed a keen understanding of the importance of conserving the reef. So, finding a way to protect the natural resource enjoyed by thousands every year became an important philosophy for the company. It is no surprise then, that Tiburon has developed a partnership with Oceana.
In September 2019, Tiburon became a major part of Oceana’s campaign to deliver a new 29-foot, Bradley Pelican marine vessel to the Belize Coast Guard. The $124,000+ boat, now dubbed “Tiburon”, has been used as a multiply operational vehicle; serving the Coast Guard to conduct a variety of missions. The “Tiburon” is regularly used to patrol the sea in order to combat piracy and drug trafficking and crack down on illegal fishing operations. When the situation calls for it, the “Tiburon” is also used for search and rescue operations, making it a valuable addition to the Coast Guard’s fleet.
The partnership doesn’t end there, however. Tiburon has also pledged to, as DeSteffano puts it, “protect the ocean, one sip at a time.” As of late 2019, $1 from every bottle of rum sold has been donated to Oceana. The already very fruitful campaign will see even more support as a new partnership will allow Tiburon to dramatically increase their distribution.
Oceana has seen major success in their campaigns to safeguard the marine environment; being able to usher in new legislation banning offshore oil exploration as well as bottom trawling. Currently, Oceana is working to further protect Belize’s marine life by pushing a new law to phase out and eventually ban the use of gillnet fishing.
These achievements have made it easy for DeSteffano and the entire Tiburon organization to commit to continuing their support of Oceana as well as future partners. As the company continues to grow and introduce more products, they hope to continue doing their part by “protecting the oceans, one sip at a time.”
Click here to learn more about Tiburon Rum.