Belize became only the third country in the world, to completely ban bottom trawling after Minister of Fisheries, Rene Montero signed the statutory instrument into law at a press conference held today at the Chamber of Commerce conference room.
The signing was witnessed by a group of top level government officials, the former OAS Secretary General and President of Columbia, Cesar Gaviria, executives of OCEANA, the international organization committed to the protection of the World's oceans and its star founding member, American actor Ted Danson.
So important and significant is this new law that praises and congratulatory messages to the Government of Belize streamed in both locally and internationally, like this one from American actor and activist, Ted Danson.
Ted Danson, Actor - OCEANA Board Member
"This is huge step you've taken not only to yourself but for the whole world really because your reefs end up feeding a vast portion for the rest of the world, so thank you so much and what a pleasure to be here in your beautiful country."
Cesar Gaviria, Ex-President of Colombia
"I want to express to all the people of Belize that we are very thankful for this speedy decision, we all know difficult it is to take decision in government, how slowly is the process, how difficult, there is always opposition problems to solve and you have been very decisive due to the decision when you were convince and you use a roll of red tape or waiting or thinking or anything, you just took the decision and we are really all please and even surprise that we were able to get this done so soon. We will now keep working with you."
Hon. Rene Montero
"I want to thank and give special recognition to Mrs. Audrey Matura Shepherd, the Vice President of OCEANA for making this event possible. It is through her negotiation skills and her persistency that contributed to this historic signing of
the banning of bottom trawlers in Belize, which is now a page in the history of Belize. I want to conclude by saying that as Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries I will do all that is humanly possible to protect and preserve our marine resources by ensuring that we comply with our strategic plan which encompasses a responsible and sustainable management."
The new law bans all forms of trawling in Belize waters including its Exclusive Economic Zone. Bottom trawling uses heavily weighted nets that are dragged across the ocean floor, and in the process drags everything in their path, including seagrasses, coral reefs and rock gardens where fish hide from predators. And while the new law to ban bottom trawling was being celebrated today as a first step, the ultimate goal of environmentally conscious groups such as Oceana, is a total ban on offshore drilling in Belize waters.
Audrey Matura Shepherd, VP - OCEANA Belize
"We are very practical from the standpoint of OCEANA I am speaking now that governments cannot easily make decisions, however we hope to come with the good reasons why they should make the decisions, therefore 2011 is going to be a dynamic year for us because we are going to do science conference. I think we need the Prime Minister, his ministers and members of Cabinet to understand what is out there, what is the value. we also need to review the contracts, we are going to look at it with a keep legal eye, that is something we are in the process doing as well and we will start with a friendly conversation with the government so far we cannot complain because at least we are having the meetings we are asking for, but that is just a step."
Andrew Sharpless, CEO OCEANA
"We will indeed present this to the rest of the world and we are already today in our offices around the world taking steps to take the videotape you saw here to the press around the world and indeed make Belize's principle stand here practical stand a new message for the rest of the world and we want people around the world to know that this is now a place that has taken a substantial step towards making sure that its ocean will be full of fish and an important leader in the world."
The only other two countries that have placed a total ban on bottom trawling are Venezuela and Palau.