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Mar 4, 2020

Oceana Offers More to Fishers for Transition Phase

Janelle Chanona

Oceana Belize has upped its proposed transitional support to Belizean fishers to two point five million dollars. The N.G.O. has been calling for the absolute ban of the use of gillnets in Belizean waters. In 2019, the Government declared gillnets as destructive fishing gear and since then Oceana has been engaging with government ministries and local stakeholders to have the gear banned. But for many fishers, gillnetting is a source of income and as such Oceana Belize is working with fishers for an alternate means of fishing. According to Vice President, Janelle Chanona, a draft agreement that replicates the same clauses contained in the 2011 contract signed between the Government of Belize and Oceana when trawling was banned, has been advanced.  Chanona says that the proposed new agreement would be tied to a gillnet ban in the same way. It would also include specific measures to be taken if any future administration seeks to alter or lift the ban, including repayment of funds provided for transitional support.

 

Janelle Chanona, Vice President, Oceana Belize

“There is an extra half million on the table. It is really to underscore Polo that this started with the fishers, Belize fishers asking for a gillnet ban and we have gotten to this point where there is two point million dollars on the table because everyone has acknowledged that fishers do need to be supported in their transition. There is two point five million dollars on the table. The conditions are there to make sure that this is something that all of us can depend on. We have been talking about getting rid of gillnets for more than two decades. We want to make sure that that ban is going to be in place for just the same amount of time, more than two decades because it really has to be that the government wants to do this and will do everything possible to make sure that this is something that can be counted on, depended on and can really be establish to give enough time for all habitat that has been destroyed to rebound, for the fisheries to have a chance to rebound and to make sure that the fishers who are committed to transition have the peace of mind that they actually will get a chance to transition. We have invited and others have as well that all the eligible fishers and that would be the fishers in the 2018 gillnet registry list, they know who they are, to reach out to us, to find out about how our package would work and how the other complimentary efforts would work because we want the fishers to be fully prepared in terms of being informed of how our package breakdown would be. Quickly I can tell you that the million dollars would be disbursed to that total eligible fisher population that would be determined by a panel of persons including the government. Once that has been determined it would be buying out their license at a pro rata basis. They will get their funds directly in hand from the Belize Credit Union League. We wanted a third party entity so that management and financial transparency is absolute. They would be able to then say well I don’t need to worry about paying my water bill, my light bill or doing these other things while I am learning a different way of fishing.”


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