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Jul 1, 2011

New Fisheries Amendments to allow better management

It’s lobster season and while having one of the delectable crustaceans on your plate may be all you need to keep your belly full, the proper management of fishing grounds and fisheries is what really keeps all marine life available for local consumption and for export. With growing demands for seafood, the once open licensing system for fishermen needed to be overhauled and that is why fishermen and managers met today at the Fisheries Department to address that situation.

Beverly Wade, Fisheries Administrator

Beverly Wade

“There are two things happening today. We’re officially launching a manage access catch shares pilot project which is really an initiative that is introducing another approach in fisheries management to strengthen our current management regime that is in place. It is actually an incentive based approach that allows fishers greater participation into one; the management of their fisheries and two; it allows them to derive more benefit from the resources because you’re actually managing how many people will be able to fish that resource in a given area. That the first thing. The second thing is to complement the management project we have actually upgraded our licensing system for fishers and vessels in Belize and with any management regime, robust licensing system is crucial. It’s really like your brain of any management regime, because you have to be able to accurately know who are fishing, where they are fishing and so that is what we have done and we have now done it in a way that will improve the current licenses that we have given to give better service to the fishers.”

Larry Epstein

Larry Epstein, Regional Project Manager, Mesoamerican Environment Defense Fund

“The Environmental Defense fund has been a technical advisor with the fisheries department in creating a system of fisheries management that the fisheries department will be using to better regulate the numbers of fishers who are involved in commercial fishery and better monitor the fishery itself.”

Jose Sanchez

“Can you give me an example of the improvements either in regulation or monitoring?”

Larry Epstein

“Well one major improvement is better systemization of the licensing process and specifically Belize’s fisheries have been managed to date as open access fisheries. So more or less, as long as they are certain minimum age and have proper residency, any Belizean can get a fishing license. It sounds quite fair, but in reality on the water what you end up having under that system is too many fishermen chasing too few fish. And on the one hand that’s really bad for fishermen because they’re making a living off this resource. On the4 second hand, it’s also damaging for Belize’s food security. Out there on the sea, you have a source of protein, a source of fish that is really valuable—both for food security, for the economics of the country of Belize and for the operations of the Co-ops and the fishing industry as a whole. If you have a system which is open access where too many fishermen can just rush in and take as many fish as they want. Yes it seems fair that anyone who wants to can fish, but the reality is that you have a danger of overfishing. And this system is put in place one; to start managing the licensing for commercial fishing in a more systematized manner and two; develop a monitoring system so there is a better idea of what’s happening with the resource for the commercial fisheries of Belize.”

The management access system is being implemented through pilot projects in Port Honduras Marine Reserve and Glover’s Reef Marine Reserve. It will be carefully studied and evaluated then adapted to suit other marine areas.

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