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Apr 13, 2011

Oceana buys trawlers and signals a final end to bottom trawling

OCEANA and the Northern Fishermen Cooperative this morning sealed a deal for the purchase of two trawling vessels. The agreement follows a ban on all forms of trawling in Belize’s territorial waters. Aside from purchasing the trawlers, OCEANA will also be providing funding to the cooperative for small eco-friendly loans and disaster relief. One of the main donors is Sir Thomas Moore, a New York litigator and author who has been a long time supporter of OCEANA. News Five’s Jose Sanchez was on hand at Young’s Law Firm for the proceedings.

Jose Sanchez, Reporting

Outlawing Bottom Trawling in Belizean waters comes with a price tag between six hundred and fifty thousand to eight hundred thousand dollars. This afternoon Oceana penned an agreement to purchase two vessels from Northern Fishermen Society.

Audrey Matura Shepherd

Audrey Matura Shepherd, V.P. Oceana Belize

“When government agreed that they did not mind supporting the ban, one of the biggest concerns was that once there was a ban, the Northern Fishermen Cooperative that owns these assets would have been left with an asset that had no value. So they had to look not only at the aspect of yes we want to assist in dong what’s best for environmental issues in Belize, but we have to look t the reality of what people make their livelihood on or the investments they’ve had. And so the buyout of the trawl was to make sure that they didn’t have that investment on their hand again and that we would purchase them instead and then Oceana Inc. that now owns the trawling will be accepting proposals to see how we should use them or who should get them. A total of eight hundred thousand Belize dollars has been invested in this deal and of that six hundred and fifty thousand goes for the value of the trawlers and the remaining one hundred and fifty goes towards the loan and grant agreement that goes to benefit directly the fishers at Northern Fishermen Cooperative being the ones who are giving up trawlers and giving up the industry. They were the only ones who were operating.”

Ovel Leonardo, Chairman, National Fishermen Cooperative

“Eighteen years ago that the government was trying to minimize on the amount of trawlers we had here or the amount of foreign boats coming into the country. And they said if the two coops don’t buy their personal boats, then no more trawling. So northern went ahead and purchased one boat then they purchased another one so there were only a couple boats in the country.  From that time it is not easy to give up something that you fight hard. We fishers had a big problem to convince them that yes we gotta get something that we love. But at the end of the day, we want work in the best interest of the country. So that’s why Northern end up buying the two boats because they wanted to minimize the foreign boats that we had vengeance with and I should say we owned our two boats and we were proud to have our two boats. But this time come about and so we end up working with Oceana and the government.”

The agreement also includes a section that directs the cooperative to give small loans to its members from the grant given by Oceana Belize.

Audrey Matura Shepherd

“The grant will be managed through the bank with NFC and they are to use that one to give loans to their fishers. That’s why it is a grant slash loan. We get back nothing.”

Ovel Leonardo

“The coops are owned by the fishermen and it only makes sense that the fishermen realize and as a coop you show them what you do. So if the fishermen they get something small off the trawler which they were doing it for quite some years. This is the way that they will feel; yes we get something small from the trawlers. There is something they will get back and that is to encourage them.”

Audrey Matura Shepherd

“What you have to understand is one of the benefits is that by them selling the trawlers, they get to pay off a good portion of their loan with the bank and that is an obligation they want to get rid of. The other aspect that—you can confirm with Mister Ovel—is that the trawlers were not making and being as successful as it was at one point. With price of fuel going up, with them having to put one of the trawlers out of service, having to maintain the trawlers—dry dock them and everything—they found themselves losing little by little. They were only making enough money to keep on paying the bank. So if it was far more commercially viable it would not have been an easy negotiation. I am sure they would have demanded far more money. So it was a give and take too because the bank had to agree because by the bank releasing these vessels as a result of the buyout, they made certain compromises too. So the bank has to be also thanked for their role in it.”

Oceana does not intend to keep the vessels but is looking for organizations that can make use of the trawlers. Within a month Oceana expects proposals for their future use, which does not include trawling. Reporting for News Five, Jose Sanchez.

Belize is the first country to institute a complete ban on trawling.

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9 Responses for “Oceana buys trawlers and signals a final end to bottom trawling”

  1. javier solis says:

    These people are loaded!!! They will spend to get their way. I Am no anti-green, but am pro development. I will still support on-land drilling but not off-shore.

  2. Bz says:

    Nice work Oceana!

  3. Lucas says:

    “THAT’S WHY IT IS A GRANT SLASH LOAN. WE GET BACK NOTHING”. Really?. No one; absolutely no one gives something for nothing!. Why not say that you, on behalf of your organization, do not want to say what you got. That would be more credible. I tell you what you got. You put your feet in the door so to speak . Making a small favor and later asking for a bigger favor. Smart ah?. By paying for the trawlers on behalf of govt., you are now in a stronger position and govt. by accepting the favor, weakend their position. In other words, you are stronger at the bargaining table. It will be harder for the govt. to say no. WE GOT NOTHING BACK AH!. I personally am against trawling and was happy when govt. said they would end it but, this is the type of govt.’s action that pisses me up. They sell us for a pot of beans.

  4. Swamp Dragon says:

    This is great! They spent to get a better way! Not THEIR way Javier. Is everything a conspiracy? To hell with drilling and to hell with irresponsible fishing. The sea will provide enough for all so long as we do not abuse her. When one man takes millions that leaves less for the masses. THat is real abuse. Thank you OCEANA for standing up for Belize! This will help the fishermen! Now if the individuals can be so bold as to not overfish and to not keep undersized species things will be quite prosperous!

  5. B Groovy says:

    let see if we can do d same in Mexico or US……

  6. Chance says:

    Well, for sure it must be for tax purposes for their organization wherever they need to write off taxes in the US, Europe,etc.

  7. louisville,ky says:

    It must have been thirty years ago or more that I first saw just how destructive those trawlers were. They used to dock at the town pier to refuel and restock on provisions and looking onboard one could see the wanton and indiscrimniate destruction of marine life that resulted from raking and scraping the sea floor for only a few pounds of shrimp. Even as a boy with only a little common sense, something told me, way too many things had to die to satisfy the taste buds of a select few.
    The end, to my mind, did not justify the means.
    Needless to say, I am happy to see the stand that Oceana has taken to rid the waters of these trawlers and put an end to what must be considered the most institutionalized pillaging of our Belizean mariculture.

  8. Disgusted! says:

    Audrey Matura’s got more B@LL$ than the entire UDP and PUP governments combined. I highly admire you Audrey. !$#K the naysayers!!!!!

  9. Swamp Dragon says:

    That would be great to do that in the US! Everywhere. We may have to eat more chicken, but why not save the seas? Such a precious resource. These boats from the Co-ops are nothing compared to the size of those ships elsewhere. And the incidental deaths of non food species is ridiculous. Sharks, Dolphin/Porpoise, Manatees, Turtles, everything get pulled up. Good job Co-ops in agreeing to this. I think the fishing quality will improve, not immediately, but soon. I have been wrong before though.

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