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Jan 26, 2016

OCEANA Launches Fish Right Eat Right Initiative

A forum was held this morning in Belize City entitled Fish Right, Eat Right to promote the sustainable harvesting and consumption of seafood. As the name suggests, the program aims to educate fisher folks to use good fishing practices. At the other end, it provides incentives to stakeholders who promote the consumption of legally caught seafood. First to be targeted are restaurants and hotels where the seafood is consumed. News Five’s Duane Moody reports.

 

Duane Moody, Reporting

Today at the Hour Bar in Belize City, OCEANA Belize launched a new initiative; a healthy sea food campaign to educate the public on what type of sea food you should eat and why you should take extra care on what types you choose for regular consumption. Dubbed “Fish Right, Eat Right;” it is an incentive to promote sustainable seafood in Belize.

 

Alyssa Carnegie

Alyssa Carnegie, Communications Director, OCEANA Belize

“It’s a concept that came up in terms of having local chefs, local cooks, local restaurants express their concerns over the type of seafood that they were being sold. And also from fishermen who have been asking for increased or stronger regulations and laws that would pertain and that would ensure sustainability of fisheries for generations to come. If you recall the ministry of health had issued a release some months ago about an increase in mercury or poisoning in fish snook in the Macal River. How would you tell that that snook was caught in the Macal River? How does a regular person know that? How does a chef know that?”

 

The advocacy N.G.O. partnered with several organizations including the Belize Tourism Industry Association and the Belize Tourism Board. The program will see the branding of restaurants, hotels and resorts that provide seafood from fish that has been sustainably caught.

 

Alyssa Carnegie

“We wanted to make sure that we had a program that would be able to certify this. In addition, you know that Belize is a tourism destination; the economy is very much tourism driven. And in other countries you have a lot of programs like this where you can see: it’s vegan, it’s vegetarian or it is allergy-free and people are asking these questions. They wanna know if it is organic; they wanna know where this came from; they wanna know where this was caught and we saw that this was actually a growing concern here.”

 

Reporter

“So when I see “Fish Right, Eat Right,” what should I think when I go to a restaurant per say?”

 

Alyssa Carnegie

“You should think that that seafood has been sustainably caught, meaning using means that limits bycatch. Some people still use gillnets even though it is a regulated type of fishing in Belize. But many times you have charismatic species like dolphins, like turtles, like sharks that are caught in gillnets or sports fishing, our protected species like bonefish and tarpon that are just basically left for dead because nobody really consumes those. So looking at fish that has been sustainably caught, that’s in accordance with the law, that follows seasons; it is not a juvenile.”

 

But the success of the program is dependent on chefs and restaurants coming on board to provide authentic dishes and maintain the integrity of their businesses. As it is, a number of fishery products consumed locally are undersized and the stock is under extreme pressure. The purchase of these products is illegal and carries several fines. But while fisher folks must adhere to the law, on the flip side, the consumers also need to be diligent with what they buy.

 

Jennie Staines

Jennie Staines, Executive Chef, Elvi’s Kitchen

“I’ve taken time and I’ve been teaching people who do fishing in San Pedro because I’ve been brought angel fish as snapper; I’ve been brought tilapia as snook or grouper and barracuda as snook. And we’ve been working very hard; a few of us in San Pedro. But I’m so happy about this because at Elvi’s, I try to practice the correct thing; we fish right and we eat right.”

 

Sean Kuylen

Sean Kuylen, Chef

“This initiative today is a beautiful one and I love that the media deh yah and everybody deh yah, but we di try do this long time, right Jennie. We try fight some time alone, but this is excellent; thanks Alyssa and everybody weh di try do this thing. We help by buying from reputable sources; we have to know the fishermen. The fishermen, they try whap we a lot of time; dah noh lie. We get shark as snapper and fish. You say the lionfish or the snapper was line caught or wild caught or barrier reef caught and these kinds of words get the attention of the person reading a menu. So we could educate—and I am very much willing to help and want to do this for everybody in the country, all the restaurants—we need to be serving lionfish and just promote it with words that could help.”

 

The official Fish Right, Eat Right trademark was also revealed at the launch today. The campaign says B.T.I.A. Executive Director is an important community-based initiative.

 

John Burgos

John Burgos, Executive Director, B.T.I.A.

“It is not only about educating the fisherman or the restaurants or any other stakeholders involved in the culinary industry, but also, we have to be able to—as Alyssa mentioned—it is not an initiative that can only be handled by N.G.O.s or only by government departments. There has to be a holistic approach whereby you get all the people who are going to be benefiting in ensuring that the fishing industry has a long term plan in place so that our generations to come will be able to benefit from those fisheries being available.”

 

According to Carnegie, there are several incentives to get businesses and restaurants signing on to the “Fish Right, Eat Right” program. Duane Moody for News Five.

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