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Mar 2, 2016

An Interagency Approach to Fighting Illegal Fishing

Images of a recent shark kill prompted outcry from conservationists as well as from fisher folk. There are various challenges facing the fishing industry, including the use of gill nets but the main threats come from the illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing. While some inroads have been made to curb these practices; the agencies that enforce maritime law are restrained due to a lack of resources and personnel. News Five’s Isani Cayetano reports.


Isani Cayetano, Reporting

A trio of fishermen, including two Honduran nationals and a naturalized citizen, was nabbed by a coastguard patrol in the vicinity of Glovers Reef on Tuesday.  Not only were these men fishing in Belizean waters illegally, they were also found in possession of a Nassau grouper and a shark.  As it stands, not only are groupers out of season, the large wide-mouthed fish are also endangered by overexploitation.  Sharks, on the other hand, are being harvested indiscriminately through the use of gill nets.  The arrests and subsequent arraignment brings into sharp focus the value of an interagency approach to maritime law enforcement.


Lt. Greg Soberanis, Operations Officer, BNCG

Lt. Greg Soberanis

“Working with the other agencies serves as a force multiplier for the coastguard.  We know that the only way to combat the threats in our sea spaces is through the interagency approach.  It has been working for us and we’ll continue to conduct interagency operations and we’ll continue to coordinate, collaborate our efforts to counter these threats.  As you know, one of the main threats that we face in Belize is IUU which is illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing.”


Recent images showing dozens of sharks being harvested for sale, either on the local or export markets, sheds light on the ongoing practice.  For the Belize Fisheries Department, cracking down on the activity is admittedly an overwhelming task.


Hampton Gamboa

Hampton Gamboa, Supervisor, Conservation Compliance Unit

“We at the department have stepped up our game, as well as our sister agencies such as the Belize National Coast Guard, such as some of our sister agencies at these marine reserves who are conducting more and more enforcement based on a number of training, as well as the resources.  Because, enforcement is one of the most expensive projects you can embark on whether it’s enforcement at sea or on land.  So resources is one of the issues we’ve had in the past.  At present we are addressing it as best as we could but we are having much more of a presence than we’ve had in the past.”


While the fisheries unit may lack strength in numbers, the Belize National Coast Guard and its crew of seamen work tirelessly to mitigate the harvesting of shark and other fish species using gill nets.


Lt. Greg Soberanis

“On the ground we have seen a significant harvesting of sharks in our sea spaces and that is a concern for us, not only the harvesting of these sharks but the method that is used to harvest these sharks.  The use of the gill nets where there is no regard for the juvenile species and we have seen where even the fishermen have stated to us that they have observed and noticed the adverse effect that it has had on our ecosystem.  So it is a concern for us, it is something that is an issue that is of importance for the coastguard as we are the guardians of our sea spaces for the country of Belize.  So it remains on the forefront for us.”


For Oceana, advocacy for a ban on the use of gill nets began six years ago when the organization was established in Belize.


Janelle Chanona

Janelle Chanona, Vice President, Oceana in Belize [File: February 22nd, 2016]

“Since 2010, Oceana has been advocating for a ban on gill nets and this was out of the result of the feasibility study that we did when we went about selecting campaigns to work on in Belize, of the fishermen saying, “We see the impact that gill nets are having and we would like to see a ban on the use of this gear.”  And they produced signed petitions that they had been sending to ministers of fisheries dated 1997.  So as an issue this is very old in terms of fishermen, Belizean fishermen saying, “I see the impact that this gear is having.  I am volunteering to give up this ban but others are coming in using this gear that’s so indiscriminate and is having an effect on my livelihood, on this resource that I depend on.”  So we have been wholly supporting the fishermen of Belize, since we started in Belize in 2010, saying the gill nets are so indiscriminate [that] they need to be banned from use in Belize.”


Isani Cayetano Reporting for News Five.

Viewers please note: This Internet newscast is a verbatim transcript of our evening television newscast. Where speakers use Kriol, we attempt to faithfully reproduce the quotes using a standard spelling system.

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1 Response for “An Interagency Approach to Fighting Illegal Fishing”

  1. Jake says:

    Do you think that $250.00 will buy you any fish after they are all gone?
    $2,500.00 is a speed bump $25,000.00 is a real deterrent and in Belize’s
    case $250,000.00 still does not address the real nature of these crimes,
    they are all serial crimes
    You will need BIG FINES to cover all the new personnel pay checks!!!

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