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Dec 6, 2019

OCEANA Responds to G.O.B.’s Decision on Gillnet

Late on Thursday, Government announced that it had taken a decision to control and eventually phase out gill nets. Government says that the measures are to be carried out over a period of two years and are intended to control the overall negative impacts of gill nets in Belize. Other changes include immediate moratorium on gill net licenses, restrictions on its importation and a prohibition of its use in the southernmost waters, south of Punta Gorda. Now, if you’ve been following the conversation about gill nets in recent years, you will know that there are several marine conservation organizations and groups that have been calling for a ban of gill nets because of its high level of by-catch where it traps and kills marine animals like sea turtles and sharks.  It also entangles and kills protected species, while depleting fish stocks.  One of the major proponents of a ban is OCEANA Belize which has carried out countless awareness campaigns for a ban. OCEANA calls the government’s decision a failure to safeguard the livelihood and rights of ninety-seven percent of commercial fishers who do not use gill nets. Vice President Janelle Chanona, who is out of country at the moment, spoke with the press via phone today about G.O.B.’s decision.

 

Janelle Chanona

On the Phone: Janelle Chanona, Vice President, OCEANA Belize

“It is clear to me that the identified way forward is not based on science. It is not based on any thought to enhancing the enforcement or most importantly, perhaps, to supporting the licensed users of this gear. I get the why especially given the advertisements that we are seeing on television and social media of late. But that why doesn’t begin to justify the reality that this decision will have far reaching implications for both fisheries and tourism and therefore to our national economy. The longer decision makers keep categorizing these issues as strictly environmental issues, the greater the consequences will be for all of us. I also admit that I have a personal fear and I think that it is shared by others, that this decision has sent a very mixed message, one that threatens the foundation of law and order as far as fisheries goes. Because by failing to prioritize the licensed users of this gear, who are willing to transition, those are the people who we have been working with, consulting with; the commercial fishers who aren’t using this gear, ninety-seven percent of them, the catch and release fishers who are being negatively impacted by this gear. I worry that this decision could be interpreted as breaking the law is not only okay but guess what it will elevate you to a position of priority by the powers that be. I really think that out of an abundance of caution, we should brace ourselves for an increase possibly in illegal fishing activity, given that it has been proven on multiple occasions that majority of the users of gillnet are in fact doing so illegally and that is done by primarily a foreign fishing fleet.”


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