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#393109 - 11/18/10 02:26 PM Why are we killing our fisheries industry?
Marty Offline
By Judge Kenneth Gale

The Fisheries Department is perpetuating the destruction of Belize fisheries and economy by continuing to allow the gill nets otherwise known as the Walls of Death to predominate.

The Walls of Death is the descriptive name that has been bestowed on gill nets. The nets have received the name because they kill all that come in contact with them.

The Walls of Death do not discriminate. They kill protected manatees, tarpon, permit, bonefish and other species even in protected waters.

The Fisheries Department is involved in the process of revamping the fisheries laws, but in doing so, it advocates the continuance of gill net fishing.

It does so putting forward the bogus claim that fishermen want gill net fishing to continue.

The Southern Fishermen are virtually unanimous in their drive to outlaw gill net fishing. They very clearly and logically set forth the manner in which outlawing gill net fishing will save the fisheries and increase employment for the fishermen.

The Fisheries Department came up with a bogus list of what they contend are Northern Fishermen who wish to have gill net fishing continued. The list did not have the fisheries license number of any of the persons who signed it.

The list is a most unprofessional attempt to accomplish the bidding of a few against the interests of the country and the majority of its licensed fishermen. The list bore the names of persons who are not currently licensed fishermen.

Ninety percent (90%) of all gill net fishermen who fish Belizeans waters are Guatemalan fishermen who come from Guatemala with their Guatemalan boats and nets.

They salt their catch and ship it back to Guatemala. Their catch includes manatees that are considered a delicacy.

At most, if the Fisheries Department obtained the names of currently licensed Belizean gill netters who support gill net fishing, they wouldn’t obtain names equal to 2% of all of Belize’s licensed fishermen.

Among the less than 2%, one-half of those named would be fishermen who illegally set their nets in closed areas, killing and taking protected fish and mammals, further contributing to the destruction of the fisheries and Belize’s economy.

Sacrificing the fisheries and jobs of more than 98% percent of the licensed fishermen to satisfy the questionable desire of less than 2% of Belize’s licensed fishermen is not only the epitome of ignorance. It is a stupid move that will further destroy Belize’s economy and lead to further unemployment. As the economy continues to go down, the crime rate will continue to rise.

Many years ago the gulf coast states of the United States of America evaluated the destructive effects of gill net fishing and outlawed all gill nets. The States thereafter, benefited greatly from this law as fish began once more to re-populate gulf state waters.

The outlawing of gill nets in Texas waters brought back many nearly non-existent species of fish. As a result Texas now boasts of a billion dollar recreational fishing industry.

If Belize immediately outlawed gill net fishing, instead of the continued loss of employment, Belize could soon have a billion dollar recreational fishing industry that would provide great employment and bolster Belize’s economy.

Gill net fishing is a very wasteful form of fishing. The fish die in the nets and many are discarded. After a net is pulled, one will frequently see dozens of protected bonefish discarded, dead and floating on the water. Neither the Guatemalans nor others consider the bonefish a marketable fish.

Why have protective catch & release laws and other regulations that protect fish when the Walls of Death are going to indiscriminately kill the protected fish and make these protective regulations useless?

Many years ago a very knowledgeable Minister of Fisheries, the Hon. Servulo Baeza, held public meetings regarding gill net fishing. He made it clear that the only way that the Guatemalan gill netters could be stopped was to outlaw gill net fishing altogether.

The future will continue to prove that Mr. Baeza was right.

On September 9, 2010 the Guatemala Congress unanimously approved the special agreement for taking the Belize Guatemala dispute to the International Court of Justice (ICJ). It appears that Belize will commit the folly of also agreeing to take the dispute to the ICJ. The Prime Minister recently made the statement that he didn’t know what Guatemala had up its sleeve.

What Guatemala has up its sleeve is clear. Among other benefits Guatemalans could legally gain are fishing rights to Belize’s waters. The ICJ does not have to stick to the law.

Like arbitrators, they have the inclination to give a little to both sides to make both sides happy. Belize has not outlawed gill net fishing and has for years allowed 90% of the gill net fishing in Belizean waters to be done by Guatemalans manning Guatemalan boats.

If gill net fishing is allowed to continue, one of the tidbits that ICJ can give Guatemala is the legal right for Guatemalans to fish Belize’s waters.

If the present Minister of the Fisheries does not want to protect Belizeans and Belize’s economy, he should resign, so one who will do so can be appointed.

When the Fisheries Department speaks, its position must be in line with the political authority, or the Department will not receive its required operating funds.

The Reporter

#393280 - 11/20/10 02:36 PM Re: Why are we killing our fisheries industry? [Re: Marty]
Marty Offline
from a friend.....

Yes very much so. I respect the views of Judge Gale. he is absolutely right.

I personally have spent a lot of time listening to the views of fishermen up and down our coast, both in formal meetings and in personal conversations. Gale is quite right. The south of Belize is MASSIVELY in favour of a gillnet ban. Not everyone, no. But a large majority. Interestingly, some of the gill netters I have spoken to, ask why they should give up their gill nets when the Guatemalans will just carry on. Its a fair question.

I have lost count of the number of meetings I have been to where this subject has been debated, and always it ends in acrimony. the truth is that when arguments are put forward to ban something, there are always a few people who derive a benefit, and therefore oppose the ban.

The ecological arguments for banning gill nets are UNANSWERABLE. No one but no one disgrees that birds, manatees, dolphins, plus sharks rays, bonefish can and are caught accidentally in gill nets. The ecological case against gill nets is rock solid. None of the facts are disputed.

It is when we start talking about economics that the problems start. How will I earn my living without my nets? The only answer to that, unsympathetic though it may sound is "sustainably' which gill nets are not.

The Healthy Reefs for Healthy People initiative is a pull together of over thirty scientific organisations all working on the health of the Meso American Reef. They issue report cards on the health of our reef and associated environment. Their 2010 report card has just been published. The biomass of fish in our waters is in sharp decline, and since the last report card in 2008, the decline has worsened. not only that, but the fish sizes has also declined, meaning that the propagation rate of the remaining fish has also been damaged. We should be taking LESS fish not more from our seas. Gill nets just have NO PLACE.

Ok so what is my suggestion?

Simple. An outright ban on gill nets in Belizean waters, and if you don't like it, tough. We will wait from here to eternity if we wait for complete agreement. In the meantime our fish stocks will decline still further.

Many may be aware that a new Fisheries Act is in the pipeline. It is my understanding that this total ban on gill nets is on the agenda. let us hope that the Fisheries Department take this bold step


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