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Feb 18, 2019

The Negative Economic Effects of Gillnets

Gillnets provide many benefits for fishermen, making them an appealing fishing gear. On the other hand, there are also drawbacks to their use. Gillnets pose a threat to the environment and economy. The sport fishing industry of Belize is estimated to contribute over one hundred and ten million Belize dollars to the economy. The placement of gillnets on shallow sandy flats increase the likelihood of catching and killing bonefish, permits, and tarpons; thus present a threat to the viability of Belize’s sport fishing industry. These fish species are protected under statutory instrument Gillnets in Belize and according to information collected, the fish stocks of the main sport fishing fish species are on a decline due to the use of gillnets on the flats. News Five’s Hipolito Novelo reports.


Hipolito Novelo, Reporting

A fishing gear that catches fish by entangling them by their gills, a gill net is made of transparent monofilament or multifilament lines. Fish can’t see gill nets underwater and become trapped. A report by the Coastal Zone Management Authority and Institute says that ‘mid-water or drift gillnets usually target fish that typically occupy the upper levels of the water column such as; swordfish, mackerels, barracuda, sharks, and salmon.” It also traps bonefish and tarpons. As ‘by-catches’, these fishes are disposed of as waste.


Grayson Sierra

Grayson Sierra, Member, Placencia Sport Fishing Association

“They died. First of all in gillnets, the mesh is about this big for certain gillnets and when the fish go through it, they get caught up. They try to stuck there way it and when they are trying to reverse out, their gills get caught in the thin net, the net is made of thin line, and that sinks in their gills. Being in their gillnets so when they try to move, they can’t because they get stuck in the net and they die.”


Leopold Leslie, Member, Placencia Sport Fishing Association

“I see that it is really detrimental to the fishing industry and I could really see a dramatic depletion of the fishing stock.”


Garrett Longsworth

Garrett Longsworth, Vice Chairman, Placencia Fisherman Cooperative

“Right now we have these guys fishing sharks. That’s the primary catch that they want. Fish like kingfish, barracudas, everything else they catch in the net goes to waste.” 


Earl Godfrey, Tour Guide Placencia

“I never used gillnets because it is very detrimental to the habitat and ecosystem because it has a lot of by-catch like rays manatees, turtle. You also have permits, tarpon, bonefish, which are catch fir sports and the gillnets are very, very detrimental to those.”


Earl Godfrey

According to the report, gillnets allow citizens to become self-employed fishers in order to earn a wage to help maintain their household. It says that income made by these fishers is injected back into the economy through the purchasing of fuel, household products, and food products. There are, however, disadvantages to the economy. Members of the Placencia Tour Guides Association and the Placencia Sport Fishing Association are speaking out in favor of a phase-out ban of gill nets. They say that the many disadvantages that come along with the use of gill nets are putting the sport fishing industry in Belize at risk.


Glenford Eiley

Glenford Eiley, Executive Member, Placencia Tour Guides Association

“These nets are directly interfering with a multi-million dollars fly fishing industry which is actually a catch and release.”


Grayson Sierra

“You imagine today I catch a nice tarpon and the client feels so good, he kisses it and put it back in the water. By evening, they come in their boat, set that net across the creek and by tomorrow that tarpon is gone. You cannot sell it because you can’t serve tarpon here in Belize, it is illegal. So he cannot come back here next year and catch that tarpon. So my thing is that we should just ban it now. Let’s get rid of it because it does not make sense. If we continue to let this happen, then there is no future.”


Leopold Leslie

But the present generation which depends on revenue generated by the use of gill nets needs to be considered. There are alternative livelihoods.


Garrett Longsworth

“I think the alternative to this gillnet thing is that we can teach these guys to become sports fishermen a just fish lobster and conch and there are other stuff that we all do in the village.”


Glenford Eiley

“The lesser of two evils for me is to get rid of the nets and save the tourist industry because that is what going to happen eventually.”


Hipolito Novelo

“How do you counter the traditional fishermen who might say that you want to save your tourist industry but I want to save my livelihood?”


Glenford Eiley

“Well, ask them if they are catching the same amount of catch. Just ask them that. What do you see in the tourism industry? You see a growth in the tourism industry not a decline but you are seeing a decline in their catch and anyone who is telling you otherwise is not telling you the truth.”


Eworth Garbutt, President, Placencia Sport Fishing Association

“Commercial fisherman is very vibrant. They all have alternatives because gillnets is not the only source of income for those guys. They do all sort of different things but let’s enhance the alternatives for them. That’s how you ban gillnets.”


Eworth Garbutt

There is, however, another concern for the fly-fishing guides. According to fishermen in the south, the majority of gill nets licenses are issued to Hondurans and Guatemalans who set up gill nets in Belizean waters.


Garrett Longsworth

“Ninety percent of the licenses here in the south, aren’t related to any Belizean. Actually, there is one family that is Belizean that has a license for gillnets and that is Elvis Leslie. Everyone else is all Guatemalans who come here. It is not benefiting this community at all.”


Glenford Eiley

“We have to remember there is a lot more next coming across the night and a full ban of nets would give the enforcement officers a far easier job to confiscate and take them out of the water.”


Eworth Garbutt

“The only one who seems like they are making money, I will try find a name right from the go for them, they come over so they are part time Belizeans or they are ambassador of gillnets to Belize from Guatemala. I don’t know which fits better but I will call them part time Belizean.”


Glenford Eiley

“The problem we have is in the remote areas. You go south, there is an area called Rocky Point, you see net this high. None of them speak English. They have Belizean fishing license. It is a sad situation. If we don’t do the right thing here in country it will be more difficult for the enforcement officers within the park system and even fisheries to deal with the matter.”


Hipolito Novelo, 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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