A program for sustainable fishing has successful completed. Pride Campaign for Managed Access was launched back in July of 2013 and after thirty months of groundwork and research in fishing communities. The industry contributes three to five percent in revenues to the local GDP; last year, a total of twenty point five million dollars was generated by the industry. There are over three thousand self-employed fisher folks and the industry directly impacts the lives of fifteen thousand Belizeans across the fishing communities. Today, a graduation ceremony was held at the Biltmore in which three persons who were instrumental in the research were presented with certificates.  News Five’s Duane Moody reports.

Duane Moody, Reporting

The practice of small-scale, unregulated fishing is threatening the industry. For the past two and half years, the Fisheries Department has been implementing a Managed Access Program to strengthen the overall management regime for sustainable small scale fishing within Belize. Working along with several partners, both local and international, a Pride Campaign was launched in an effort to engage fisheries stakeholders.

Beverly Wade

Beverly Wade, Fisheries Administrator

“From the beginning of time, we had open access to fisheries in Belize and so the Pride Campaign was critical and its continuance—whether it is not formally through the actual Pride Campaign that occurred, but actually continued engagement with the fisher folks in Belize—is critical because you are now changing how people have operated since they’ve known themselves and now asking them to now approach fishing and livelihoods in a different manner.”

For the program to work, fisher folks had to be sensitized on the long-term benefits of sustainable fishing. Three individuals were deployed to fishing communities along the Belizean coast.

Olga Denise Garcia

Olga Denise Garcia, Manage Access Coordinator, Southern Node

“We’ve been able to go into the communities, do an intense research on what fishers think, how they feel, what are their perceptions of the fisheries; what are possible barriers—things that are stopping them from adapting a program like manage access and using that understanding in developing technical assistance strategies, but also social marketing strategies. So the focus of our pride campaign is mostly looking at the marketing aspect of it and basically creating a buzz for something and in this case, it’s manage access. So going out into the community, having fishers engaged, increasing their knowledge of what the program is about, increasing their willingness to adapt the program; get them talking about it and just trying to move hat community in adapting a program like manage access.”

Beverly Wade

“While the manage access is part of a bigger picture for us in ensuring sustainable fisheries in Belize, we can only be successful at it if fishermen, first of all, understand that it is being done in their best interests and secondly to have their cooperation and to ensure compliance.”

Fisheries Administrator Beverly Wade says that following the national roll out of the managed access program, the department is already seeing more fishermen complying with regulations.

Beverly Wade

“You are now giving fishermen tenure-ship. So it’s like I’m saying Duane this is your area. How much you benefit from this area now depends on you. So you find that fishermen become better stewards of that area and they realize that by complying with the regulations, by having a sense of security with regards to production. There isn’t a need to race to fish and catch out everything because there is an understanding that this is my area; I share it with everybody. There is actually a promotion of voluntary compliance which is necessary for us in small scale fishing.”

Pablo Granados

Assisting in this strategic effort was RARE, an international conservation organization that helps communities adopt sustainable behaviors toward their natural environment. They were instrumental in the conservation of the scarlet macaw in Belize and are now working with communities for the sustainable use of fishery products through the Pride Campaign.

Dr. Pablo Granados, Marine Science and Implementation Director, Fish Forever

“As a director of RARE of this Pride Training Program in Belize, please allow me to share with the entire audience that I am truly impressed. You should feel very proud and so should you family members who I am sure sacrificed as much as you did for your family growth in the advancement of fishers management in Belize.”

A new licensing system under the managed access program comes into effect in June, but over the next six months, the department continues to engage the fishing community. Duane Moody for News Five.

Channel 5