Oceana Belize Supports Seaweed Farming
Back in 2010, Belize became one of three countries in the world to put a ban on deep sea bottom trawling. Two trawlers were bought by Oceana and one of them had been docked at the port for more than a year and on Saturday, the vessel, Northern II was handed over to the Placencia Producers Cooperative Society at a cost of just one dollars. Love News was in Placencia this weekend and Reporter Hipolito Novelo found out how the trawler will be used for a sustainable project.
“This vessel currently named, Northern II is one of two trawlers that was bought by Oceana Belize a few years ago when they successfully convinced the Government of Belize to put a band on deep sea bottom trawling. Since then Northern II has been anchored at the Belize Port but on Saturday it officially became the property of the Placencia Producers Cooperative Society, a group that was formed by 15 fishermen and registered in 1962. According to the Chairman of the cooperative, Sidney Lopez Jr. Northern II will be used for seaweed farming.”
“Back in 2005, we had a seaweed workshop; guys from St. Lucia came over and taught us how to plant the seaweed and ropes. We used to harvest seaweed a long time ago but It was harvested from the wild. It was not sustainable and so we wanted to do something that will keep giving; we saw the need for something or somewhere for the fishermen, the farmers to be on site and that is where we came up with the idea to ask Oceana through Lisa, Lisa was the one that was making contact for us for the shrimp trawler that they had, so that our fishermen, our farmers could be out on site 24/7.”
“The pilot phase of this seaweed farming project has been completed and will now move on to the expansion phase. The cooperative is producing about two hundred pounds of dry seaweed per month from the twenty farms that are located in Little Water Caye and Hatchet Cayes, says Lopez Jr. At the moment though, that amount can only supply the local market but plans are to produce enough seaweed for export.”
“This is how the process is; we just plant it on the rope, push it through, break off a piece of the seaweed from a big head like this and you put a little piece into the rope, as you can see in the pictures and then we have the nets that they were telling you about. You sew some nets to put over the rope that is to protect it from when the weather gets rough so it doesn’t break off. When it grows big like what you see here, after this process, when it grows we clip it off the ropes and the small piece remains and that is what is going to regenerate and then we take it to the island on Hatchet Caye; we dry it and this is how it looks when it’s dried.”
“The trawler was a property of the Northern Fishermen Cooperative Society Limited and Oceana bought the Northern II along with another vessel through an agreement with the cooperative and the Belize Bank for an overall value of $800,000.00 but the price that the Placencia Producers Cooperative paid was far less - just one dollar and according to the Vice President of Oceana Belize, Audrey Matura Sheppard, two major criteria were looked at: sustainability of the project and financial stability of the cooperative.”
AUDREY MATURA SHEPARD
“For a change we saw a fishing group that understood the concept that when it comes to fishing, it is not like farming. In farming, you go and plant something and extract it; in fishing, you just go and take out and take out and take out for nature and then you’re not thinking that if you’re taking out, how is it replenishing and so for a long time environmental groups have said this and tried to teach fishers that you can’t keep on taking out, you need to be able to figure out how to take out enough and leave sufficient for it to restock. Well this project, the seaweed project is really like farming that’s why it’s called seaweed farming - you go and you put in and you only take out what you have put in; now that is sustainable development and that’s one of the major attractions for us, the other thing we had to look at: do they have the capacity to actually manage these trawlers, sustain it and stuff like that and the answer was yes because obviously these are sea fearing people. Mr. Mendez, in terms of administrative is very good, he’s very financially accountable; Mr. Sidney, the Chairman is very forward, taking along his board and I think if they are the leadership then definitely they can impact the membership. So, it was easy for us to see their reaching out was a genuine one and so we had to support a project like this that is very community based. So, a lot of people asks us what will it cost them to get the trawlers and I say, it’s only one dollar; I think it’s going to be their best dollar spent ever.”
“This boat is equipped to sleep or to assist at least fifteen to twenty persons with good sleeping areas conveniently. She has everything on board in reference to kitchen; communication systems and she’s very equipped to assist in areas whereby educational and environmental programs will come out here and they will have a safe place to actually base out and do whatever research they need to do. It is the exact purpose and it has the perfect environment because it is a steel hull and it’s the perfect place to dry seaweed.”
The first trawler was donated to the Coastal Zone Management Authority and Institute.