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#406737 - 05/02/11 02:53 PM How To Revive The Belize Lobster Industry
Marty Offline
During earlier years the Belize lobster industry was among the finest in the world.

It provided major financial support that bolstered the Belize economy. But lobster fisheries today no longer produce such financial support, and the lobster season that just closed was the worst in history.

The destruction of Belize’s once great lobster fisheries, with its enormous decline in catch and loss of revenue, has been brought about by the Government’s eight year refusal to listen to its own expert.

When the decline in revenue from the fisheries reached major proportions, the Government employed a marine biologist, who was an eminent authority on lobster fisheries, to advise the Government.

This eminent marine biologist was Maria Estela de Leon. Maria Estela provided recommendations that were the same as the laws used in the major lobster producing countries such as New Zealand, Australia, Cuba and the United States.

The first recommendation was that the lobsters be brought ashore alive.

A second recommendation was that the measurement of the lobster to determine its legal size should not be the weight of the lobster tail. It should be the measurement from between the eyes, or horns, of the lobster to the back of thebody shell. The same method that is used by major lobster producing countries.

Belize’s then and present manner of determining whether a lobster is of legal size is to rip off its tail, killing the lobster. The tails are then taken ashore to be weighed. If the tails do not weigh enough, they are rejected. The rejects are tails of undersized lobsters that were illegal to take in the first place.

It is the epitome of ignorance to ignore procedures used by successful countries and kill off the small lobsters, by ripping off their tails, to determine whether they have grown to legal size.

It would not take more than ten seconds, to do like other countries and use a small 2 ounce hand gauge to determine whether the lobster is large enough to be considered legal size.

If it were not large enough, the lobster would immediately be returned to the water where it could grow up and reproduce. It would not have to suffer death by mutilation.

Bringing in lobsters alive is a universal practice. It is done in all major lobster producing countries and doesn’t create a problem.

When I was last in New Zealand, lobster fishermen accumulated and kept their catch alive in their receivers for more than two weeks, until there was a price increase.

Though it would have cost nothing, the Government has, for approximately eight years, sat on its hands and refused to follow the experts’ advice.

If the advice had been followed, the lobster fisheries would have been rejuvenated to where it again became a major source of fishermen’s income. But because the advice was not followed, Belize’s lobster catch has declined to a point where income from lobster hunting is so paltry, the industry is almost dead.

There was one other important recommendation by the expert that was also rejected. This was a recommendation to outfit lobster traps with escapes so that baby lobsters could escape from the traps.

All that was necessary was to leave an opening running along each side of the trap, near the bottom, some 2 3/4 inches high. The opening would allow undersized lobsters to walk out of the trap.

Traps with these openings are used by the world’s major lobster producing countries. But Belize would not adopt the modified trap, even though it would have saved the lives of hundreds of thousands of baby lobsters, which have since perished.

In any major lobster-producing country, Belize’s lobster traps would be considered illegal and would be destroyed.

Instead of returning tiny lobsters, that are trapped to the water, the prevailing procedure in Belize is to scoop them up, rip-off their tails and bring the tiny tails ashore by the thousands to sell to restaurants for lobster stew.

The practice is so prevalent, that when fishermen are questioned about why they take the baby lobsters, the common response is: “Well, if I don’t take them, someone else will”.

Thousands upon thousands of baby lobsters that were not able to escape from the traps are taken and killed each season. They are killed, before they have the chance to grow up and have babies of their own.

Now is the time to begin building new traps, or rework the old ones, so that sensible traps will be used in the coming season to protect the new generation of baby lobsters.

Even if the traps are not built or modified, lobsters can be properly measured by a small hand gauge.

Only legal size lobsters should be brought ashore alive, and there should be strict enforcement of the law to return undersized lobster to the water so that they may grow to adulthood and reproduce.

This one conservation measure would help prevent further depredation of the Belize spiny lobster.

The Government of Belize had a choice and it chose to do nothing! It is true that the previous government began this process of depredation, but the present government is squarely responsible for taking corrective measures.

Will the UDP continue to stand by and preside over the demise of the Belize lobster industry? Will it be inaction as usual, or will there be a vigorous response in favour of common sense?

Will the Old School fishing lobby prevail, or will there be young voices raised in favour of common sense? The Government has a clear duty to respond. But will it?

From a letter To The Belize News Media by Kenneth Gale.

Mr. Gale is a retired judge from the U.S. currently residing in Belize.

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#406777 - 05/02/11 09:12 PM Re: How To Revive The Belize Lobster Industry [Re: Marty]
Barbara K Offline
another golden goose....
with its tail ripped off........ :-(
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#406901 - 05/04/11 05:08 PM Re: How To Revive The Belize Lobster Industry [Re: Marty]
colomojo Offline
Wow - something so easy to understand and the government doesn't get it?
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#406914 - 05/04/11 07:22 PM Re: How To Revive The Belize Lobster Industry [Re: Marty]
hjl Offline
There is no question about the fact, that sustainable development ought to be the guideline for the next century and this has a lot to do with the rights of children including of the unborn. But then those, who are yet unborn do have very little influence, since they can't really talk to us. We have to anticipate what they want to say. Of course we can assume that they have similar desires as ours, which directly leads us to what is meant by sustainable development: It means that we ought not consume more than what we would expect our grandparents having consumed, so that we face an agreeable place on this earth.

In a way this is a very old or old fashioned demand and I think it is rooted in every culture of this earth. For instance once I read in the Guiness book of records the name of the lake with the longest name and it is: Munchowgagokchungowgagokchowgagagoongamouk (or so) Which means: We fish on our side, you fish on your side and nobody fishes in the middle and that means, that the fish population can recover. So in the name of a lake you can discover the principle of sustainable development. Also: Sustainable harvest does not at all mean not to eat, not to enjoy life. It is indeed an enjoyable idea. But the idea is, also for our grandchildren to have an enjoyable life and this is a real challenge.

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#406922 - 05/04/11 08:35 PM Re: How To Revive The Belize Lobster Industry [Re: Marty]
collyk Offline
This is an important point. As part of Be Kind Belize we teach the children that poaching is actually stealing and that the people who are poaching are stealing from them and from their future. The children get very excited about protecting their future once they understand what poaching is. Poaching animals from our forests (many people don't know that you need a license to hunt, there are hunting seasons and restrictions, you need a license to sell game to restaurants and shops and you need a license to sell game to the public) and seas is no different from stealing land from a family. It is stealing from everyone in Belize, but most certainly from future generations. The culture of tolerating poaching needs to be addressed from the top down. Most of all, consumers need to be informed and use their power. As long as people will continue to buy animal and marine products that are unethical or illegal they will continue to be sold.
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#406981 - 05/05/11 02:34 PM Re: How To Revive The Belize Lobster Industry [Re: Marty]
tacogirl Offline
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#407287 - 05/09/11 03:03 PM Re: How To Revive The Belize Lobster Industry [Re: Marty]
Marty Offline
Data from the Fisheries Department itself shows that the catch of lobster has declined from over 1000 metric tons per year in 1980 and 1992 to less than 600 metric tons per year in 2000 – 2004.

http://www.fao.org/docrep/006/y4931b/y4931b07.htm

http://www.ub.edu.bz/download.php?f=nrm/Carcamo_R_lobster.pdf

http://www.landusepolicy.bz/Downloads/Geo_Belize_2010_lowres.pdf
(this is an EXTREMELY informative document about everything from agriculture to fisheries to water to mangroves/corals, aquaculture, etc.

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#407289 - 05/09/11 03:38 PM Re: How To Revive The Belize Lobster Industry [Re: Marty]
Marty Offline

BELIZE SPINEY LOBSTER FISHERY DEBATE GETS HOT!




THE SPINEY LOBSTER DEBATE IN BELIZE

Senior Fisheries Officer, George Myvett replied to criticisms of his bureaucratic department with a long paid ad in the Reporter newspaper. The man explained his case well and defended his department´s decisions and regulations with gusto. The main issue were an article by somebody called Judge Kenneth Gale. That writer we have all learned is a concerned person about development issues and constantly writes articles creating a furor in local circles with his criticisms. The articles are good in that they do make us take a second look at the status quo. We have also learned that Mr. Gale, does not do proper research, but writes articles based on his opinions, stating these as FACTS. It did the cockles of my heart good, to read the paid ad by our FISHERIES OFFICER George Myvett rebutting the conclusions and opinions of Mr. Gale. Between Mr. Gale and Trevor Vernon we have some opinionated persons, who write biased articles on our society and development. The latest furor is over the lobster fishery.

Mr. Gale starts stating opinions as FACTS, which is very misleading and not backed by the science. To the general public this causes a great deal of confusion. While in this current debate, Mr. Gale is saying the spiney lobster fishery is declining, our Fisheries Officer Mr. George Myvett states this is not true. He then goes on to state that our lobster tail export product is actually stable and has been for many years, a couple of decades. He then pointed out that Mr. Gale drew his flawed conclusions based on the dollar values earned by the lobster fishery, on a recent per annum comparison. THAT is very true, due to the WORLD RECESSION of three years or so, in which lobster tail prices dropped in export value. The Senior Fisheries Officer points out that the number of weight, or pounds of lobster tails stays fairly steady, making a stable self sustainable fishery under current management rules.

One of the arguments put forth by the Fisheries Officer is that MOST of the lobster tails are caught and delivered by snorkelers, using the hook, NOT by lobster trap fishermen. The divers work the reefs and grounds down to about 40 feet. At least that is what I used to do in my youth as a lobster diver. Most reefs are steep underwater inclines and at deeper levels the spiney lobster is unmolested. A sort of self regulating affair, as to catch. Lobster diver producers, make value judgements on weight through experience, by visual sight when they decide which lobsters to hook out of a crevice with a nest of them residing there. Some mistakes will be made, but on the whole it works well as a system.

When it comes to management rules, I tend to differ from the Fisheries Officer. Bureaucrats everywhere want more CONTROL and more regulations. I myself believe that the control comes from PROFIT. Either you make a paying trip, or you lose money. PROFIT is a proper system of controls, not more bureaucratic management and permit limitation rules.

When it comes to lobster trap fishing, and I have made my living at this and was a FOUNDING MEMBER of the first LOBSTER FISHING COOPERATIVE IN BELIZE during Colonial times, so there is 60 years or more of experience here. I disagree with the Senior Fishery Officer in which he states that since lobster trap fishing produces less than 25% of ALL the lobster tails produced, the current diversity of managment controls on the lobster fishery are adequate enough, as shown by the self sustainability of the lobster fishery, by pounds of lobster tails delivered each year. He may have a point, but I support the view and argument of Mr. Gale that says we can do better, with a release space at the bottom of the traps, for immature lobster. There are locations in the waters of Belize, which produce most of the Spiney Lobster juveniles. My traps to the West of the Bajo, a sand bar, a few miles West of Caye Caulker, always produced 99% small baby lobster, and only the occasional spiney lobster of legal size. Same could be said of the area around Blackadores Caye. There are other places. To me I will agree an escape space at the bottom of the trap makes a lot of sense, even if the lobster trap fisherman is only producing less than 25% of the catch. The reason the catch is not more, is most lobster fisherman in the North of the country, went into building hotels and restaurants for the tourist business, which has grown and pays better than lobster, for less work.

Still, when this subject comes up, I am mindful of my lobster traps being FULL of lobster, so heavy that it was difficult to pull them over the side of the boat. The drawback, was out of hundreds of lobster, only one, maybe two would be legal size. The space at the bottom of the trap makes a lot of sense to me as a mandatory regulation. Controls on number of fishermen are just games that bureaucrats play, in this fishery, to throw their weight around and complicate a fishery that does not need. Using expensive gasoline and the PROFIT margins, make any lobster trip self regulating. _______________________________________

Also, friends of mine who used to own a restaurant in Placencia had to order lobster a couple of times from the Northern Coop when lobster wasn’t available in Placencia.

What they received was disgusting – the tails were about the size of a medium-sized shrimp.

So, whatever tonnage is being produced now obviously includes undersized lobster tails.
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#407323 - 05/09/11 11:07 PM Re: How To Revive The Belize Lobster Industry [Re: Marty]
elbert Offline
Data from the Fisheries Department and Northern Coop stats are are not accounting for the direct sales.
Two decades ago fisherman neglected their cooperatives to sell direct to restaurants for a higher price. As everyone knows the number of restaurants in conjunction with the tourist industry has grown tremendously and the figures for the catch are not reflecting direct sales. Exports are down but consumption within the country is huge. Very hard to tally something like that.
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