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Jan 5, 2000

New funding for fisheries project

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The process of economically harvesting fish from the sea long ago made the transition from art to science. But this does not mean that we cannot gain vital knowledge by looking at the culture and traditions of our fishermen. This morning News Five’s Janelle Chanona met some people who plan to move science forward by looking at the past.

With vast improvements made to the Southern Highway and much more traffic on the sea, the once distant district of Toledo is rapidly becoming a hotspot for development. Unfortunately, tagging right behind are increased threats to the environment. Fisheries Administrator George Myvett says the idea is to act now rather than be sorry later.

George Myvett, Fisheries Administrator

“I would say that our management philosophy is essentially to take the precautionary approach. We are monitoring; we are not waiting for something substantially negative to happen before we act. We need to be proactive.”

In July 1999, concerned scientists and coastal zone managers from across the region also saw the need to be proactive. Through the International Development and Research Center of Canada, I.D.R.C., a three-year award program was established to improve coastal zone management in the Caribbean. The CARICOM Fisheries Unit, in collaboration with the I.D.R.C., the Laval University of Canada and the International Ocean Institute of Costa Rica, today handed over a check for over eighteen thousand Belize dollars. This is the first half of payment to a joint project, being launched by the University of the West Indies School of Continuing Studies, the University College of Belize and the Toledo Institute for Development and the Environment. While the project will focus on biological and historical factors of coastal zone management, handled by TIDE and U.C.B. respectively, the U.W.I. will look at the folklore in fisheries.

Joseph Palacio, Resident Tutor, U.W.I.

“Our work in this particular project is going to include such things as folklore on fisheries in the management of the coast, historical information going way back, that to us is very important.”

For TIDE’s Wil Maheia, taking a closer look at the community stakeholders will be vital to the project.

Wil Maheia, Scientific Director, TIDE

“We will be working closely with the communities as we continue to focus on fisheries management in the Gulf of Honduras. It is very important for us not to forget the importance of the communities in the management of these natural resources.

One of the strengths of TIDE is that we recognize the capabilities of the community and the strength and knowledge in relation to the natural resources. So it’s always important that we tap into the local communities for their expertise of the natural resources so that we could make sound management decisions.”

Milton Haughton, scientific director for the CARICOM Fisheries Unit says different countries have been making sound management decisions but not at the same time. Haughton hopes that through this project success stories will be shared so as to learn from another’s mistakes.

Milton Haughton, Scientific Director, CARICOM Fisheries Unit

“In some cases they’ve made significant advances that are not shared, not known by others. So we reinvent the wheel over and over again when we do not have to do that. So through this project, we’re trying to promote exchanges and sharing of information, sharing of expertise, sharing of personnel and transferring knowledge among the countries by greater interaction.”

George Myvett

“Much of what has been done for coastal zone is driven by bioscientists and in general bioscientists will do things of a biological nature. This project, has decidedly social science orientation and it’s a very good compliment with some of the other issues that have been dealt with before.”

While the relationships built between the respective stakeholders of the region’s natural resources will have a strong impact, local support of the program will prove critical. Wil Maheia is confident the communities of Toledo will back the project.

Wil Maheia

“All of Toledo is very much behind TIDE. Without the communities of the Toledo District, TIDE would not exist. TIDE is very much dependent on the communities to exist. We feel very much a part of the communities and we are sure that the communities feel very much a part of us.”

In all fifteen projects, from nine countries, will get funding from the program. Approved projects include one from Belize, one from Barbados, one from Colombia, two from Costa Rica, five from Cuba, two from Mexico, one from St. Lucia, one from Trinidad and one from the Virgin Islands. Belize will receive the second half of the funds after a review is done by the CARICOM Fisheries Unit. Approximately three hundred thousand Canadian dollars will be divided among the approved projects.

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