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Jun 5, 2019

Turneffe Atoll Trust Releases Report on Gillnet Use in Belizean Waters

The Coalition for Sustainable Fisheries recently released the data on fisher folks in Belize. The data found that primarily along coastline communities, there are only two thousand, five hundred and thirteen licensed fishers. Members of the coalition, including conservations groups, have been lobbying with government to institute a ban on the use of gillnets. Today, the Turneffe Atoll Trust issued a report, which will be forwarded to the Gillnet Task Force, which supports the phase-out of what is being defined as a destructive fishing gear by conservationists. News Five’s Duane Moody attended the conference held at the Radisson and files this report.


Duane Moody, Reporting

The Turneffe Atoll Trust today released a report on the use of gillnets in Belizean waters. So what is the net loss or gain of the indiscriminate fishing gear? According to consultant Valentino Shal, there is a lot of degradation in the biodiversity of fish and marine life as a consequence of the continued use of gillnets. He believes that this puts important sectors of the economy at risk.


Valentino Shal

Valentino Shal, Consultant

“What we found is that there is a lot of infractions happening with regards to the use of gillnets. While we have the regulations that suppose to regulate the use of gillnets, it is not very effective and so that is something that really affects how these gillnets are used in Belizean waters. So it is not working well in terms of regulation and enforcement.”


The data reveals that three percent of the two thousand, five hundred plus fishers, or eighty-three fishermen, have the requisite license and permits to use gillnets within Belizean waters. But transboundary fishers, who continue to exploit marine resources, are affecting the fisheries and tourism industries.


Alex Anderson

Alex Anderson, Executive Director, Turneffe Atoll Trust

“I think the information from this report is so valuable. It allows us to look at the facts as it relates to the regulation and the policies that exist. It allows us to look at both the economic and environmental impact of gillnet use in Belize. Apart from the gillnet study, it really also highlighted two very important facts. Doctor Rachel Graham has documented the issue we are having in Belize as it relates to the illegal fishing and the illegal trade of sharks going to Guatemala; one. And two, I think the investigative journalism work really highlights the scope and the magnitude of the amount of fish, Belizean fish that is going to Guatemala. And I want to highlight that these are fish that are being caught by Guatemalans. They are buying gas in Guatemala; they are buying nets in Guatemala; some of them have fishing licenses for different areas in Belize.”


Also attending today’s launch were fishers from the well-known northern fishing community of Sarteneja. For decades, these registered fishers have been using traditional fishing gear and they believe that the proposed ban on gillnets threatens their livelihoods. Jennifer Chapman of Blue Ventures says that the Sarteneja fishers have not been engaged in the discussion and a policy change can adversely affect them.


Jennifer Chapman

Jennifer Chapman, Country Manager, Blue Ventures

“The issue at hand is really complex and so far the national discussion has focused on the issue with illegal and illegitimate gillnet fishers who are catching seafood and there is a massive undocumented export of seafood going to Guatemala. This is what we heard today in the press conference. My comments are not towards that. My comments are towards the legitimate traditional local fishers in Sarteneja who catch using gillnets and have done for generations and are not responsible for the negative impacts that are being seen elsewhere. And so my position is that their rights of access need to be protected and need to be considered in the national discussion. That seems to me the obvious option here is providing a special license to these fishers which enables them to continue to use their gear type and to continue to access these resources for generations to come.”


Even as all this data is being sent to policymakers via the established Gillnet Task Force, monitoring and enforcement remains a major issue.  Duane Moody 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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