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Jun 1, 2018

Celebrating the Fishermen

The Wildlife Conservation Society, Fisheries Department and the Caribbean Regional Fisheries Mechanism launched “Fisherfolk Month” today in Belize City.  All month long, WCS and its partners will host a number of activities and discussions to highlight the important role that fisherfolk play in Belize. The fishing industry, back in 2016, was said to earn in excess of ten million U.S. dollars in revenue and it is an industry that provides jobs and source of food for thousands. Andrea Polanco was at today’s launch and tells us more about why the sector is celebrated every year.


Andrea Polanco, Reporting

There are two thousand, seven hundred registered fisher folks in Belize. But the fishing sector provides jobs for more than fifteen thousand Belizeans and accounts for about three percent of the country’s GDP. But often times the work and contributions of the fishermen and women is overlooked, so for the past four years the Wildlife Conservation Society and its local and regional partners dedicate the month of June as “Fisher folk Month.”


Ralna Lewis

Ralna Lewis, Asst. Country Director, WCS

“It is basically in recognition of fishers and the contribution that they provide to Belize’s society and economy. If you notice, the theme for this year’s event is ‘Working towards zero hunger with sustainable small scale fisheries,’ that just highlights the fact that fishing and the fisheries sector is important to Belize’s economy or society, especially to our local coastal communities. It constitutes a large portion of the diet people consume and eradicating hunger and poverty are all sustainable development goals that as a country we should be working towards.”


Mike Heusner, VP, Belize Audubon Society

“I think more professions should be celebrated and I am glad to hear the fisherfolk are doing it another time. I think people in the tourism industry appreciate different groups of people who contribute to the tourism industry, including fishing for fish products.”


But while the month celebrates the fisherfolk, it also brings into sharp focus the challenges in the sector, from overfishing to enforcement and resource concerns.


Ralna Lewis

“This year conch season was a bit low and that is one issue that they express. It is hoped that management tools such as managed access and existing no take zones will work towards addressing those issues but fundamental to those issues is that you need to have enforcement in place. You can have all of these management tools but you need enforcement in place and that requires resources; financial resources and human resources, obviously. So, that is one of the core things when it comes to ensuring that these management tools provide benefits to people. You need to have that enforcement in place so that you can identify that these things are working and this is what I am reaping by abiding by these regulations.”


Andrea Polanco

“Do we still have the monitoring – such as the drones and those things being used? We always have stories of people who are caught with undersized conch and lobsters?”


Ralna Lewis

“Well, what we found out is that we tested or piloted out the use of some of those things but the type that we really know for these kinds of environment is really costly. But the type that we are really using is surface water patrols, going out there in vessels and patrolling the area. Again, this boils down to the fact that you need money for fuel and people out there – so that is the type of enforcement that we have out there. We see its effectiveness in certain areas especially where you have co-managers present and especially in the central region of Belize where you have the Fisheries Department CCU capture fisheries unit is in place.”


Mike Heusner

Mike Heusner

“There are always challenges and the industry is growing to a certain extent and decreasing to a certain extent. I notice where we are now importing fish fillet and at one point we never would have believed that would ever happened.”


The month long celebration kicked off today with its official launch at the Memorial Park. Partner agencies shared information in interactive displays. Reporting for News Five, I’m Andrea Polanco.


As a part of the activities this month, the WCS will recognize a Fisher of the Year, as well as host a number of educational sessions, forums, and outreach activities across the fishing communities in Belize.

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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