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Coalition for Sustainable Fisheries calls on gillnet fishers to voice their concerns

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Posted: Thursday, December 12, 2019. 6:00 pm CST.

By BBN Staff: The Coalition for Sustainable Fisheries issued a statement today adding to the ongoing and controversial gill-net debate and saying it has worked over the past two years to develop a plan for banning gill nets throughout Belize in a manner that will benefit commercial fishers, tourism, and most importantly, gillnet fishers.

The coalition says that it is disappointed with the recent government release titled “Measures to Control and Eventually Phase Out Gill Nets” published on 5th December which announced that GOB will implement limited measures over the next two years to control the use of gill nets in Belize.

The Government Press release noted that “if critical parameters are met in the future, including the successful transition by gill net fishers to alternative gear or livelihoods, an immediate ban will be considered.”

The coalition noted that prior to this announcement, a proposal was made to the Government committing $2,000,000 to transition the 83 licensed gill net fishers away from the use of this harmful gear.

The Coalition for Sustainable Fisheries raised $1,000,000 to fund an economic alternatives program, which would transition gill net fishers to alternative types of fishing gear, train gill net fishers to expand into the lucrative tourism sector and provide scholarship funding for children of gill net fishers.

In addition to these economic alternatives, Oceana has raised $1,000,000 for a gill net buy-back program.

This proposal was contingent upon the Government agreeing on a date when a ban would be legislated before the funds can be released. This would ensure the money put forward by the donors is used to secure the livelihoods of these 83 gill net fishers while simultaneously securing the marine resources that tens of thousands of other Belizeans depend on for their own livelihoods through commercial fishing and tourism.

“The Government’s decision to rule out a legislative ban will essentially deny the gill net fishers of access to this $2,000,000 funding, depriving them of alternatives that would have improved their quality of life and helped them get away from this failing method of fishing. Unless a definitive timeline can be agreed for a permanent ban on the use of gill nets in the waters of Belize, all funding raised by the Coalition will be returned to donors and the opportunity for external funding for this transition will have been missed. It will then be up to the Government of Belize to seek funding to cover the costs of a transition. This will be a great loss for these fishers, as well as the country, whose economy depends greatly on fishing,” the statement said.

The coalition reiterated that while it does not agree with the route Government has chosen to achieve a ban on gillnets, it remains open to dialog with the Ministry of Fisheries, Forestry, the Environment about how to utilize the money it has raised so that gill net fishers can be successfully transitioned to productive and sustainable livelihoods.

The Coalition also calls on those gill net fishers supporting the ban to come forward and voice their support for this transition.

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