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GOB takes limited action against gill nets, Oceana not impressed

Posted: Thursday, December 5, 2019. 9:08 pm CST.

By BBN Staff: Today, the Government of Belize (GOB) issued a statement detailing its latest actions against the use of gill nets, a destructive fishing practice; however, Oceana Belize says that the decision is actually a missed opportunity on GOB’s part.

GOB’s measures include an immediate moratorium on the issuance of gill net licenses to new persons and importation of gill nets will be restricted based on licenses.

GOB added that all existing gill nets will have to be re-registered and licenses will now be for a seasonal duration. The allowable mesh size will be adjusted to lessen the likelihood of by-catch of protected marine species. 

“Most importantly, the use of gill nets will be forbidden in the southernmost waters, south of Punta Gorda, that are important for ecological and biodiversity conservation. Related to this, the amendment to the Fisheries Regulations has already been enacted by the Minister of Fisheries to prohibit permanent residents from obtaining fishing licenses,” GOB said.

Oceana Belize issued its own statement not long after, noting that to enact the measures announced today GOB has turned down a two-million-dollar financial aid packag. This 2-million-dollar package would have been disbursed to licensed Belizean fishers as part of their agreement to transition away from this indiscriminate and destructive gear. In 2018, those fishers numbered 83 persons.

The environmental NGO said that GOB had effectively maintained the status quo and protected the illegal and unlicensed users of this gear. According to Oceana, however, this fails to safeguard the livelihood rights of the 97% of commercial fishers who do not use gill nets as well as the hundreds of Belizeans who depend on catch and release fishing in the tourism sector.

“The only thing going away is the money that would have gone to licensed Belizean fishers. Oceana’s advocacy against this indiscriminate and destructive gear continues,” said Oceana Belize’s Vice President, Janelle Chanona.

 

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