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Will fishers agree to a gill-net ban?

Will fishers agree to a gill-net ban?
February 15
10:13 2019

Recently several NGOs and the Belize Federation of Fishers (BFF) proposed that the government phase out and ban the use of gill nets in Belizean waters. While the proposed phase out ban has been opposed by the Fisheries Department and the Belize Fisherman’s Cooperative Association (BFCA), BFF continues to lobby for a phase out ban.

In speaking with the BFF about its support for the ban, Nigel Martinez, Director of the BFF stated that he realizes that fishermen who agree to put down their gillnets must be given opportunities for other livelihoods. To this end, the BFF has been working on possible alternatives for gillnet fishers who agree to consider more sustainable forms of fishing.

Designed to look after the interests of fishermen throughout Belize, and protect the country’s fisheries, BFF opened its doors in 2011. Since then its goals have been to educate, advocate and act in the best interest of Belize’s fishermen and their fisheries.

In November 2018, several NGOs and BFF formed a Coalition, the Coalition for Sustainable Fisheries, to convince the government and the public that a ban on the use of gillnets in Belizean waters is necessary for a sustainable fishery. The group includes Oceana, Mar Alliance, Turneffe Atoll Trust, the Belize Game Fish Association, National Sports Fishers Association, and Yellow Dog Community and Conservation Foundations and the Belize Federation of Fishers and several additional organizations support their efforts.

In speaking with Nigel Martinez, Director of the BFF he stated that most members of the BFF agree that the harmful effects of gillnets require fishermen to explore alternative earning options. The majority of fisherfolk understand that the harmful effects of nets on their fishery and that they need to put down their nets and branch off into new income earning options to make their fishery sustainable

On the flip side, the proposal has met resistance from the Fisheries Department as well as certain gillnets, and particularly shark fishers, who claim their livelihood is at stake. They believe gillnetting should not be banned.

The recently formed Shark Fishers Association (SFA) rejects the proposed ban. In their view, gillnets are the best method of catching big sharks, which in turn translates to bigger profits. Bigger fins and more fish meat mean more money. The profits in this sector of the industry are lucrative. So much so, that it has attracted our Guatemalan and Honduran neighbors who primarily fish at night for sharks and other fish with gillnets. Many fishers, in fact, believe that the majority of shark fishing in Belize’s waters is being done by Guatemalans and Hondurans.

In the end, gillnetting sweeps up and kills everything in their path, including juvenile fish, endangered species and the marine environment. The practice is banned in many other countries as it is felt to be an unsustainable fishing method. Time will tell what lies in the future and health of our fishing industry.

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