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Oct 9, 2018

Belize Audubon Society Goes Boat-to-Boat

On Monday night we reported on the Belize Audubon Society’s work with the Managed Access Programme. That programme was first piloted in one site and after seeing some positive results, there was a national roll out.  It is considered a model to be followed in the region, but there are still some areas that need to be adjusted since in some quarters the benefits are not felt. The Belize Audubon Society is one of the N.G.O.s that manages the Lighthouse Reef Atoll, a popular fishing zone. In recent years, it has implemented a grassroots approach to meet the fisherfolks boat-to-boat.  The initiative also strengthens relationships, encourage fisheries regulations compliance and promote sustainable fishing. News Five’s Andrea Polanco tagged along on a recent boat-to-boat meet up and shares more in the following story.

 

Andrea Polanco, Reporting

A few years ago, The Belize Audubon Society implemented a strategy called Boat to Boat. It is a simple, yet effective, outreach approach that is being used for fisheries management in Belize. The boat to boat strategy is a tool being used in the Managed Access program which is a right-based fishing initiative that gives traditional fishers access to fishing grounds. And so, The Belize Audubon Society wanted to reach more fisherfolk because in the past it was difficult to build a relationship when the stakeholders base would be out at sea or not able to attend community meetings. And so, meeting the fisherfolk in their assigned fishing grounds has now doubled the number of persons BAS engages.

 

Shane Young

Shane Young, Marine Protected Areas Manager, BAS

“There were tensions. The approach when we used to have this engagement, we were being seen as more of a threat to them. But now we are seeing that they are more open to dialogue with Belize Audubon Society and likewise as partners. They are open to sharing information and the discussion is more semi-formal and the respect is there. We have moved away from only eighty-four fishermen in 2012 at community meetings in Chunox, Copper Bank and Sarteneja, to now one hundred and sixty one fishermen when we do the boat to boat engagement.”

 

The Belize Audubon Society along with its partners, Belize Coast Guard and Fisheries Department, would go out at sea once a month to check up on fisherfolk and to see if they are in compliance with fisheries regulations. It also makes the fisherfolk a part of the decision making for easier buy in to sustainable fishing practices.

 

Lucito Ayuso

Lucito Ayuso, Community Liasion Manager, Belize Audubon Society

“Our conservation efforts in terms of regulations, in terms of protected areas policies and so on.  We are talking to them about filling out their catch data log book; we are talking to them about the reason behind this. So, they get a better understanding of the managed access roll out. And one of the greatest benefits that we get out of the boat to boat strategy is that fishermen voice out their issues, and their concerns.”

 

On this trip, we are visiting fishing vessels in the Lighthouse Reef Atoll. The fishermen must present their fishing license and produce a log book– in which they record the types and quantities of seafood they’ve caught. This provides valuable information to be used in fisheries management.

 

Amanda Acosta

Amanda Acosta, Executive Director, Belize Audubon Society

“The hope is that the fishermen become stewards or responsible users of their turf. We are hoping that they will then be informing us as to what the resources look like within this area, so conch, lobster, and finfish. The log book is a tool that he fisherfolk, the captain actually needs to fill out a log book per trip and in there he is writing the information and the data as to what exactly caught. The hope for this information is that we can then determine how much resource is available. We also, from a science end, do surveys pre and post conch and lobster season. So, we can use this as an additional extraction tool to figure out how much is being taken out. There are still things that need to be worked out with the log books and one of the things we are trying to get is compliance; that everyone is filling them out and they are submitting that information.”

 

The decisions made will help fishermen from northern communities like Chunox and Copper Bank to be able to fish for many more years. The Belize Audubon Society recognizes the value in this friendly approach.

 

Eli Tun

Eli Tun, Fisherman

“It is good because they are doing their work. They come to check the license and check if everything is going good.”

 

Andrea Polanco

“You think this is helping fishermen or it makes things harder for unu?”

 

Eli Tun

“Sometimes (laughs). Sometimes it good, mien.”

 

Osvaldo Tzul

Osvaldo Tzul, Fisherman

“We always have illegal fishermen working around. But I believe that the guys that are working around the area, I could mention that Audubon and Fisheries supposed to do their jobs too but more frequently.”

 

It is costly venture, but thanks to the E.U.’s project to restore fisheries in the Meso-American Barrier Reef system, the Belize Audubon Society was able to secure funding to continue with this initiative. And it is a model that will be expanded to other parts of the country to strengthen fisheries management.

 

Jasmine Tzul

Jasmine Tzul, Project Manager, Restoring Fisheries in Meso-American Barrier Reef Project

“I am here to see exactly the implementation, how it is being done and just to see if it is something – or how good it will work in other zones as well. I take my recommendations and it is also something like a little monitoring and evaluation to see how the other aspects that the project has funded how it is being implemented here in zone seven.”

 

Andrea Polanco

“What are your thoughts on what you’ve seen?”

 

Jasmine Tzul

“I am definitely impressed.”

 

Managers of these resources want to ensure that we can enjoy the lobster, conch and fin fish for years to come. But the only way to ensure that is to sustainably manage what is being taken out of the sea.

 

Shane Young

“There is fish out there. The question is how much? Is it sufficient? We think basic economics of demand and supply. There is a demand out there for fish. Everybody wants to eat fish but do we have the supply? Is there enough conch? Is there enough lobster? So, we have to have some type of management of these resources if we want to continue to have these types of fish stocks.”

 

Reporting for News Five, I’m Andrea Polanco.

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Viewers please note: This Internet newscast is a verbatim transcript of our evening television newscast. Where speakers use Kriol, we attempt to faithfully reproduce the quotes using a standard spelling system.

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