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Mar 30, 2000

New agreement to protect Glover’s Reef

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While the Glovers Reef Atoll remains an elusive vacation spot to both Belizeans and tourists; the reefs of the marine reserve have been no stranger to illegal fishing activities. In an attempt to resolve the issues affecting the reserve, late last year, representatives of the Fisheries administration and the Ministry of Fisheries got together with fishermen and stakeholders of Glover’s Reef. The discussion quickly became a heated argument, but through the channels of communication and consultation, a compromise was reached. Today, that agreement was signed. The document deals mostly with defining boundaries, but clearly states that only one family, who live on the atoll, will be allowed to conduct subsistence fishing. For the representatives of the Glover’s Reef Atoll Islanders Group, signing the dotted line was a big step in the right direction.

Dr. Thomas Bright, Representative, Glovers Reef Islanders Group

“This is really a milestone agreement. It resulted from consultation between the user groups, who had conflicts of interests, but conflicts got resolved. And looking at this document, it reflects agreements that we can live with. They are not perfect, but we can certainly live with them. There were sacrifices that the islanders had to make and there were sacrifices that the fishermen had to make.”

Daniel Silva, Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries

“So the only people who will be allowed to fish out there will be one family, who lives out there. The boundaries have been redefined; those were basically the changes that were made. But there was a lot argument of where it should be. Fishermen always believe that their livelihood is being taken, so that was taken into consideration because fishermen are a very important part of our economy.”

Janelle Chanona

“Now Minister I know down south you’ve been having a lot of problems down south with illegal fishing going on, especially with the manatees and recently you caught a few fishermen on the reef laying gill nets, what is the Fisheries Department doing to combat this?”

Daniel Silva

“Well the fisheries, we have been very active down there in fact our rate of interception down there has increased by 500%. If you look around here, there are a lot of boats that have been seized. We have a couple more cases pending in court and we will not tolerate any kind of illegal fishing from fishermen from our neighboring republics.”

Jamie Chanona, Manager, Glover’s Reef Reserve

“I think our big thing is going to be the proper markation of the zones. The fishermen’s big complaint or main complaint is that we are going off different zones. So as a result when we try to reprimand them inside the conservation zone or inside the wilderness zone, their first thing is, “Ms., the marker is over there” or “the zone is wrong”. So our first big thing is to work in collaboration with both the cooperatives to go out there and mark the zones together, so that when we catch fishermen inside the zone, there is no argument whatsoever.”

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