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Editorial December 29th 2019

Editorial December 29th 2019
December 24
21:25 2019

While this newspaper welcomes the new Fisheries Reform Act approved last week by the National Assembly, we are disappointed that the government did not insist on a complete ban on the use of gill nets in all the waters of Belize.

The argument put forward by the Prime Minister, that a full withdrawal from gill-net use would place undue economic hardship on southern fishermen, is not convincing.

The fishermen who are licensed to use gill nets ( there are less than a hundred of them), continue to enjoy an unfair advantage over the thousands of other fishermen. They are the elitist few who do not have to toil like all others who are not as well connected.

Moreover the license to use gill nets gives to Guatemalan poachers the opportunity they seek to get in on the act, because it is not easy to tell who is a licensed gill-net fisherman from who is an impostor by simply looking at the gill nets. In the Seychelle Islands the government is more conscientious about conserving the marine environment. Their fishermen have voluntarily refrained from year-round fishing in certain fishing areas.

Like farmers who allow some fields to lie fallow for six months, they too leave certain areas of their sea un-fished so that the fish population has a chance to recover and become numerous again. We believe that the unrelenting use of gill nets is bad for the fishing industry, is wanton and wasteful and cannot be justified under the existing circumstances.

It would have been more helpful and fairer to other traditional fisherfolk if the gill-netters had been given a year or two grace period to phase out their use of gill nets so that they can be fully compliant with a law which fully protects the marine environment.

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