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Belize is developing a management plan for 47 species of finfish to make the industry sustainable

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Posted: Thursday, August 26, 2021. 5:04 pm CST.

By Rubén Morales Iglesias: The Government of Belize is elaborating a management plan for 47 of the most important finfish or bony fish species in Belizean waters in an effort to make the industry sustainable.

According to the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), the Belize government is working hand in hand with fisheries managers, scientists, and fishermen in developing a sustainable fisheries plan.

UNCTAD says 2,500 fishers live off the Belize fisheries industry and 15,000 people benefit indirectly from it.

Belize fisheries exports, which are mainly spiny lobster and queen conch, amounted up to US $21.3 million in 2019 but it could be much more if and when Belize develops the bony fish development plan.

“Devising and implementing a sound multispecies finfish management plan is critical to making coastal fishing in Belize a sustainable and traceable sector with great export and tourist consumption potential,” said David Vivas, an UNCTAD legal officer who is working on ocean economy issues.

Vivas said that if the finfish plan works well, it could take off some pressure from the spiny lobster and queen conch plus it can help the fishermen have more income.

According to UNCTAD said that the finfish management plan is a science-based program that uses an adaptive approach to decision-making. Based on the scientific data collected, the plan allows fishermen to adjust harvest controls so as to better manage the “fish baskets”.

The fish baskets are stakeholder-determined groupings of target ​​​​​species based on the species and fishery characteristics said Kendra Kerr, a scientist from Environmental Defense Fund, one of the partners developing the plan.

According to Kerr, the fisheries managers, fishers, and scientists use the multi-species fish baskets system “to manage a greater number of species to generate socioeconomic and ecological benefits”.

A draft of the management plan was recently reviewed at a workshop that was put together by UNCTAD and partners which include the Belize Fisheries Department.

Next it will be reviewed by the Belize Fisheries Council after which it will be put to a two-month public consultation to get feedback and input from the fisheries industry stakeholders.

UNCTAD said that the Belize finfish management plan should serve as a model for other countries.

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