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Belize passes historic legislation – bans gillnet fishing

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Posted: Saturday, November 7, 2020. 11:30 am CST.

By BBN Staff: This week, the Government of Belize (GOB) positioned the country as a global leader in sustainable development by passing legislation to ban the use of gillnets, a destructive type of fishing gear, from being used in Belizean waters.

On Thursday, Dr. Omar Figueroa, Minister of Fisheries, Forestry, the Environment, and Sustainable Development, passed Statutory Instrument 158 of 2020  titled the Fisheries Resources (Gill net prohibition) Regulations, 2020 which prohibits the use and possession of gill nets in all the sea under the jurisdiction of Belize.   

GOB notes that the signing of the SI marks the culmination of a two-year phased process. The process began with the establishment of a stakeholder taskforce in 2018 to examine the issue of gillnet use; the development of recommendations in 2019 to phase out gill nets concluding in a ban; the signing of a cooperate agreement in 2020 between the Coalition for Sustainable Fisheries, Oceana and the Government of Belize to assist gillnet fishers to transition to alternative income-generating opportunities and trade-in their gill nets; and the successful engagement of gillnet fishers in 2020 in the transition and buy-back process. 

“The Government of Belize recognizes the collective commitment of the private sector, conservation community, and fishers to the sustainability of our fisheries sector and will continue to work to ensure that Belizeans will be able to depend on a bountiful and beautiful Caribbean Sea for generations to come,” GOB said.

Following the signing, Oceana Belize, one of the organizations that have been advocating for the ban on gillnets for years, issued a statement congratulating GOB and emphasizing what the achievement means for Belize.

“This decision and action have been welcomed by Oceana, Belizean fishers, and NGO partners as a momentous step to protect invaluable marine environments and safeguard the livelihoods of tens of thousands Belizeans. With the enactment of this Statutory Instrument, Belize becomes one of the first countries in the world to put an end to gillnet fishing in its territorial waters,” Oceana Belize said. 

Senator representing the NGO community, Osmany Salas, also spoke on the matter, noting that the decision to ban gillnets proves the serious collective commitment by the Government, NGO community, and the public about improving the sustainable management of the country’s fishery resources for the benefit of current and future generations of Belizeans.

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