Belize Audubon says it’s only enforcing law
Kenneth Bruce, one of the village fishermen, says his main concern is losing his nets and he just wants them back. But according to the Protected Areas Manager in charge of the Crooked Tree Wildlife Sanctuary, Dominique Lizama, Bruce’s nets were removed because he had them in a restricted area of the lagoon. Lizama explains that the villagers are not being stopped from fishing, instead the rules and regulations allow for it to be done in a sustainable way. In fact, the law strictly prohibits all fishing in the lagoon; however, because the Belize Audubon Society and relevant government departments are aware of the village’s traditions, they have allowed certain exemptions. But Lizama makes it clear that Audubon doesn’t make the law, it simply enforces it.
Dominique Lizama, Protected Areas Manager, B.A.S.
“The fishing concerns or issues within the Crooked Tree Wildlife Sanctuary has been a longstanding one between the Belize Audubon Society, the government and the fisher folk from the Crooked Tree Village. One of the issues—even though the protected area was established in 1984 for several important factors, one of the concerns is the fishing. As the National Parks Systems Act states, there are several prohibited acts, which includes no fishing, no using of spears, nets; no extractive activity within the protected area. There are also several exemptions to which we have recognized particularly for Crooked Tree because they have been fishing traditionally for several years and based on that fact, the Belize Audubon Society, the Forest Department and the Fisheries Department have been having ongoing discussion to see how we can address the fishing concerns in Crooked Tree even though it’s a protected area. We’re not stopping the community members from fishing. What we’re asking them is to abide by the rules and regulations stated within the act even though by law, the acts are restrictive but based on verbal agreements and the longstanding community relationship that we have had with them, we’re just asking that they respect the rules and regulations, fish sustainably and preferably fish using traditional practices such as hand line rather than using nets and for several years now they do get annual hauls that are authorized by the fisheries and the Forest Department along with Assistance from the Belize Audubon Society because naturally, when the water goes low during the dry season, the fish are going to die anyhow. So we do grant them those haul days so that they can take out fish. The Forest Department, the Belize Audubon Society and the Fisheries Department, we are aiming to have that discussion with the fisher folk of Crooked Tree. Notwithstanding that, we have had several community one on one with the fisher folk gathering their concerns, letting them state what their issues are and those same issues and concerns we take that to the relevant government department and then we can establish the way forward in trying to come up with reasonable rules and regulations that they can follow.”
Since these issues are not limited to Crooked Tree, Lizama says the government is doing a rationalization and justification of the entire protected areas under a U.N.D.P. and G.E.F. project to find a balance that benefits the environment, the communities and the economy.