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Jun 8, 2023

Eco Tour Promotes Protecting Belize’s Marine Resources and Wildlife for Tomorrow’s Generation

Today was observed as World Oceans Day and Monday was World Environmental Day. In tandem with these days, the Corozal Sustainable Future Initiative (C.S.F.I.) organized an eco tour of selected locations in Corozal to showcase to the media the steps they are making towards sustainably managing the resources around them to benefit today’s and future generations. The first part of the tour took reporters to a site where fishermen engage in beach traps, a sustainable method of fishing that dates back to the Mayas. Today’s tour by News 5′s Marion Ali is this week’s edition of Belize on Reel.

Marion Ali, Reporting

This circle made of sticks and wire is called a beach trap. It is one of eleven that sit in the sea near Sarteneja, Corozal District and is the chosen method for commercial fishing in the Corozal Bay Wildlife Sanctuary. This type of fishing is agreed upon between fisher folk in that area and the Sarteneja Alliance for Conservation and Development formed in 2012. Since then, the alliance has been able to compromise with the commercial fishermen who rely on the sanctuary as a means of livelihood.

Joel Verde

Joel Verde, Executive Director, Sarteneja Alliance for Conservation and Development 

“Ultimately, depending on what they do as fishermen, is what will ensure their livelihood in the long term. Right? And so, in that period of time we were able to get the fishermen organized. They have a beach trap association. We were able to meet some compromise with them in terms of them agreeing some of these conditions that will allow them to con. Continue using the resource, but conditional with some mechanisms and some interventions that will ultimately benefit them, um, as, as fishermen. And, and so we are at the point right now where we have signed an agreement with the fishermen well actually the fishermen with the government of police, uh, for access to the reserve.”

To access the area, the fishermen must use beach traps as their method of fishing. Accompanied by a ranger, Eliseo Canul went to harvest the mature fishes that were in his trap. He said that it wasn’t difficult for him to accept this type of fishing because it was already a part of his family’s tradition.

Eliseo Canul

Eliseo Canul, Fisherman, Sarteneja

“If I throw the smalls that will grow and more fish, and then I, my, children they will have fish. Yes, my children’s and other children’s when they grow they will have fish right here in the bay.”

Marion Ali

“But there are fishermen among you, among your membership are your numbers that don’t do that. There are fishermen who go to the market and sell the small sprats for $2 or $3 a pound. How discouraging is that?”

Eliseo Canul

“I nuh see that as good. In my – I will not do that because I want to, to sell pretty fish, big fish.”

While the days catch for Eliseo might not add up to a hefty sum, the fishes were mature and the catch was enough for him to purchase food for his family and fuel to return tomorrow for more fish. The sustainable method of extracting marine resources is one that the Ministry of Sustainable Development not only supports but pushes for, as Minister of Sustainable Development, Orlando Habet shared.

Orlando Habet

Orlando Habet, Minister of Sustainable Development 

“Government can’t do it alone. We’ve be doing the policies and passing the legislation, but we depend largely on the population, the people to have. The education – to have the knowledge and appreciate, especially what we have, so that they can also help in conservation. One of the things that we miss many times is that, um, we are looking at the 17, sustainable development goals and we look at all of them, and many times we forget goal number 17, which is that of partnership and collaboration. I am not one of the persons who believes that everything has to be policed. Many times when you pass laws and it’s being policed and people are behind you, that’s when you have sort of retaliation from the people and they don’t do what they’re supposed to do because you are pressuring them. But once they know that they will do it because they understand the why. And that is why the education information is so important because there are fishermen who engage in illegal fishing.”

Because there are fishermen who engage in illegal fishing, the effort has to be more than educational. Executive Director of the Sarteneja Alliance for Conservation and Development, Joel Verde says spot checks and enforcement are important.

Joel Verde

“Anything commercially that is, uh, that is outside of the trap is illegal. In fact, that’s the major issue we have. So for example, we have sometimes Mennonites, Mennonites accessing the area along jungle states. In the eastern coast where we always have issues with gill nets there, in fact, every, every surveillance or every patrol that we do in that area yields the confiscation of gill nets and so forth. We also have a side here, which is the area which I also have land access, and we also have an issue of gill nets there. But those are primarily considered our hotspots, and that’s primarily where our targeted surveillance seeks to address.”

A couple miles further east of the fish traps is an area called Cayo Falso comprising two tiny islets, habitat for frigate birds and manatees. This site also forms part of the two hundred and seventy-eight square miles that make up the sanctuary. Rangers frequent the area to ensure that the pristine environment is preserved for the wildlife that inhabit there. Marion Ali 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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