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Joined: Oct 1999
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Marty Offline OP
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New York Times
April 17, 2007
No-Fishing Zones in Tropics Yield Fast Payoffs for Reefs

NGIWAL, Palau - Sitting on a bench in a thatched hut in this village on Palau's main island of Babeldaob, Islias Yano, 57, looked over the bay he has fished professionally since he was 15 and recalled the fishing practices of his boyhood.

"We fished certain fish in certain seasons," he recalled. "Each reef could only be fished by people from a certain village." Village elders would rotate fishing on reefs, he recounted, to husband their slow-growing main source of food.

Starting in the 1980s, population growth, new seafood markets in Asia and modern ways of thinking washed away the elders' authority and rules.

"Outsiders started coming into our reefs, they used scuba gear and dynamite, and the fish got smaller and fewer," Mr. Yano said, shaking his head.

In the world's tropical seas, full-grown snappers and groupers became as rare as full-grown tuna or cod elsewhere. In Ngiwal, the reaction was not long in coming. Once again, the elders ruled.

In 1994, they banned fishing in a small area of reef that was partly accessible on foot. The village women, who traditionally gather shellfish at low tide, noticed how the fish became more plentiful there in a few years. The reef became locally famous, and other villages started to do the same.

Today, Palau, a tiny island state 600 miles east of the Philippines that is internationally known as a site for recreational diving, is at the forefront of a worldwide movement to ban fishing in key reefs to allow the return of prized species. It now protects a patchwork of reefs and lagoon waters amounting to 460 square miles.

At a November 2005 meeting of the United States Coral Reef Task force in Koror (the Republic of Palau, independent since 1994, still qualifies for certain domestic financing from the United States), President Tommy Remengesau Jr., probably the world's most conservation-minded head of state, caused a splash with his so-called Micronesian Challenge: a call to the rest of the region to set aside for conservation 30 percent of coastal waters and 20 percent of the land area by 2020. Palau already has that amount, though not all of it is policed, but the rest of the region has far less.

"I realized you couldn't have development on one side and conservation on the other, and see which would outwit the other," he said an in interview in Koror, the commercial capital. "If you cared for the future of the country, you had to bring them together," so the nongovernmental organizations became "an integral part of our planning."

Palau's challenge has come at a time when reef-fishing communities around the world are discovering that setting aside no-fishing areas yields dividends in a few years because the resurgent fish populations spill over into areas where fishing is allowed.

Without as much support from their national government as Palauans enjoy, local authorities in Fiji have raised the number of no-take zones to 189 from 2 in 10 years.

Two years after Ratu Aisea Katonivere, a traditional chief, imposed a no-take zone, "The fish are closer and bigger," he said. "They are coming back; it's a miracle." Mr. Katonivere, who rules over 7,000 people in the Great Sea Reef, the world's third-largest barrier reef, spoke in an interview during a conservation conference in Honolulu.

Other participants said that in the Solomon Islands, the protected areas have gone to 30 from 2 in just five years, and in Vanuatu, they exceed 100.

"The old system of controlling fishing with the taboo system is being adapted and improved because people still respect their traditional chiefs," said Alifereti Tawake of the University of the South Pacific in Fiji. "They're used to fishing where they want, but when they see the decline of the fish and the results of the no-take areas, they see it's the way to go."

The Micronesia Challenge has resonated far beyond Micronesia. Five months after Mr. Remengesau issued it, President Susilo Bangbang Yudhoyono of Indonesia pledged to increase marine protected areas to 24.7 million acres from 18 million acres by 2010. In the Antilles, the states of Grenada, the Bahamas, Belize and the Grenadines, which have already protected some reef areas, have committed themselves to a Caribbean Challenge and are trying to persuade the other nations to make similar pledges, according to Bill Raynor, the Nature Conservancy's director for Micronesia.

But in the United States, marine protected areas are less than 1 percent of near-shore waters. In Hawaii, where the reefs are largely depleted of fish, a "right to fish" bill recently approved by the state house of representatives would make it almost impossible to create any protected areas by requiring unattainable scientific data.

That Palau has taken the lead in ocean conservation is no accident. Even among Pacific peoples, Palauans have been known for prizing fish and seafood over meat and farmed vegetables, and its fishermen have stood out for their keen understanding of the reefs. A Canadian marine biologist, Robert E. Johannes, was the first to tap the Palauans' knowledge of marine biology by interviewing them and fishing with them in the 1970s.

Palauans, he wrote, showed him that in their archipelago, 55 species of edible fish followed the lunar calendar to gather in enormous groups called spawning aggregations and release sperm and eggs in the water - "more than twice as many species as biologists had described for the whole world."

When diving became popular, in the 1990s, Palauan fishermen were able to take foreigners to sites with extraordinary numbers and varieties of fishes and corals, and the island became one of the world's top diving destinations. This brought a measure of prosperity to the 14,000 Palauans (unemployment is 2.9 percent), and it reinforced the views of fishermen like Mr. Yano that plundering reefs is a bad idea. In 1997, 330 square miles in the Rock Islands lagoon favored by divers were closed to commercial fishing and the killing of sharks anywhere in Palau's waters was banned.

Also protected are the Napoleon wrasses, fish that can reach five feet and are worth up to $10,000 alive in Hong Kong. They have been decimated almost everywhere else, but Palau now boasts one of the world's largest densities of them, a major attraction for divers.

In 1998, a so-called El Niño event involving major sea current changes sent unusually warm water to several countries around the world, causing the corals there to turn white and die. In Palau, the bleaching event killed off a third of its corals on average, but the proportion was much larger in the outer reefs whose dense fish populations, clear water and dramatic drop-offs are the main attractions to divers.

At the time, Noah Idechong, the country's leading environmentalist and founder of the Palau Conservation Society, had recently been elected to the lower house of Parliament.

"We realized that our no-fishing areas could not protect us from global warming and reef bleaching," he said.

With the support of the Nature Conservancy, Mr. Idechong (pronounced idda-ONG) introduced legislation to integrate the patchwork of existing protected areas- some imposed by the government for tourism, others established by villages along the coast - and add another 30 percent from those that best resisted bleaching, or recovered fastest from it, he said.

Today, the network design is close to being completed, and by the end of the decade - 10 years before the president's 2020 pledge - it should be fully in place, Mr. Idechong said.

Although Palau's reefs are the envy of the region, poaching remains a problem. "There are boats on my reef every night; they are fishing illegally with scuba tanks and spear guns," fumed Brownie Salvador, the governor of Ngarchelong State. "I have no money to hire rangers to stop them."

To monitor the health of the reefs and curb poaching, Palau needs $2.1 million a year, officials say. Foreign donors are expected to create a $12 million trust fund, and the rest will come from an added tax on divers, said Mr. Raynor of the Nature Conservancy, in an interview in Pohnpei, in the Federated States of Micronesia.

Because Palau is far ahead of the others, "It's really important we succeed, because the whole world is looking at us," Mr. Raynor added.

At Dalhousie University in Nova Scotia, Boris Worm, author of a seminal paper predicting that there will be little wild fish left to eat by midcentury, is keeping a close eye on the rapid spread of marine-protected areas in the Pacific. "Those bottom-up ones work a lot better than top-down ones; they have better compliance and work well long-term," Dr. Worm said. "Now that we are reaching a global limit, people are asking how can we fix the problem, and they are rediscovering that the old methods really work. It's very significant."

Interesting, Marty. Something Belize (and neighbors) will HAVE to face at some time in the future

Joined: Apr 2006
Posts: 520
It is probably later than you think,,, even today. But an answer may be as simple as discouraging the tourist inshore bait fishers from taking more fish than can be eaten at one meal,,, ask all the flats guides to promote catch and release,,, and promote some incentive for fly fisher to visit the island... They don't keep or kill fish. They prefer, instead, to drink Bilikins and smoke Cuban cigars.

I'll be happy to discuss my avatar with anyone who knows what it is.
Joined: Dec 2006
Posts: 993
I agree with you Don. but it was my guide who kept all the fish on my 2 trips. Not Me. I took 2 fish one for myself and 1 for my wife. The rest, and I mean a lot, were put in his live well and I'm sure he sold them after he dropped us off.So please don't single out the tourists.

Never Use money to measure wealth
Joined: Mar 2001
Posts: 2,733
It's interesting how we attempt to "inform" the people of AC, who have fed their families with fish for generations from a renewable resource, how they need to manage that resource while we destroy the marine eco-system by manufacturing land thru dredging and filling in mangrove areas so we can build more condos so more fisherman can come and drink Belikins and smoke cigars. Of course as long as they eat chickens and all the fish they catch are released, then everything should be ok. frown

Joined: Apr 2006
Posts: 520
Mr. Warren, I am truly impressed with the observations you have made regarding the area infastructure, renewable resources and the detrimental influence of the tourist industry. Your comments have convinced me that you are probably among the permanent residents of Ambergris Caye and hold a significant political and economical interest in the community. As a Belikins drinking, Cuban cigar smoking, fly fishing tourist who occassionally occupies one of those eco destroying condos, I must ask why those in your influence circle have permitted the revenue tax structure to deteriorate to the point that free, mandetory, education is not provided to every child, law enforcement seems to be in desperate need of updating as is power and communications, the public library are sustained with public donations, and fire/rescue/coast guard facilities are minimal at best. Where are you when the community need you?

I'll be happy to discuss my avatar with anyone who knows what it is.
Joined: Mar 2001
Posts: 2,733
Mr. Greife, you make some wrong assumptions. I am not a permanent resident of
AC. I do not have voting privileges in Belize and therefore no political influence. A description of me would be closer to the way you describe your involvement in Belize. So you could ask of yourself the questions you ask of me.
I have had the experience of spending some part of every year in Belize since 1969. I first came to Belize for the fishing. I fly fish, spin fish, baitfish, spearfish and any other kind of fishing that I find enjoyable. What troubles me is when one segment of our fishing brotherhood suggests that because all others do not follow their practices; like catch and release those that don't are less of a conservationist. Don't get me wrong, I am a firm believer in catch and release for some species. But, to suggest that the local fisherman that keeps the snapper he catches when he takes out a tourist is damaging the resource is not near as important as addressing the damage to the marine eco-system as a result of, IMO, development at a pace beyond what the environment and infrastructure of the island can handle.

Now as to your added comments, not related to fishing, about the tax basis, etc. look at what you pay for taxes on your condo in relation to what those taxes would be if that condo was say on the beaches of Florida. Put that in perspective of what services the government gives.

Anyway, look me up the next time you are on the island and if I am here I would enjoy continuing this conversation with you. I think it is worth discussing.

Last edited by bywarren; 04/19/07 08:32 PM.
Joined: Dec 2006
Posts: 993
This thread was about Fishing. The pros of No-Fishing zones. All of a sudden we are talking about Eco harming Condo's, tax Basis, Belikin drinkers, and Cuban cigars. Can anyone say " High Jack"
I have fished all my adult life, over 40 years. I practice catch and release. I do however take what I can eat. I pay top dollar to enjoy the experience, and have charged the same to other anglers who want to partake in that experience using my knowledge and the adreniline rush of the anticipated bite, and the thrill of the fight when hooked up. 99 times out of 100 that fish is released to fight another day for another angler. There are thousand upon thousand of anglers who fish the oceans, lakes and rivers who practice the same.

For you Don to single out the "Tourist" fisherman as the answer to what ails the overfishing of the reefs and oceans in and around Belize is disengenious.If the overtaking of marine species is the delemia, Then have the Fisherman who take the tourist Dollars , who allow the indiscrimate catch of all species, because they see the profit in a hatch full of fish Curtail this practice. Tell the Tourist he/she can catch all they want but are allowed to keep only a certain amount. Have the Goverment of Belize start setting catch quota's. slot limits, aggregate creel limits, etc. Yeah what a joke,the Govt of Belize could care less. The guides do as they please, charge prevailing rates, let the " Tourist " catch what they can, knowing all too well they, the guides, will possess the catch and make even more money by selling it to the local populace, resturant, or fish market. Giving not a tinkers damn what harm they are doing to the ecology or the fish population. If you belive different you are living in a dream world. It's easy to blame someone else, and of course the cash spending tourist who does nothing but pump dollars into the economy is the easiest target. Wake up!!!. change the rules, hold the Guides and the local fishermen to the standards that will save your ecology and your Marine life. I'm possitive this will not happen, I'm sure the Govt. will shrug this off, they have more places to exploit than the local fishing regulations. There is no money in it for them..

Don't cast a broad brush on tourists, the tourist supports your lifestyle, the tourist bolsters your economy, the tourist has built your infrastucture ( via taxes levied) the tourist is not your bane. It's your fishing guides who still think the ocean is bottemless when it comes to the marine life it contains.

Quote POGO: " We Have Met The Enemy, And They Are Us"

Last edited by BiIl Mc Ghee; 04/20/07 06:16 AM.

Never Use money to measure wealth
Joined: Mar 2001
Posts: 2,733
OK Bill, you too have struck the nerve. First, please understand I am not making my comments to offend or criticize you or Don. I am only furthering the discussion as it effects my love of fishing, yours and Don's love of fishing.
Both of you make your point that the local fishing guide is causing harm to the resource by keeping the fish he catches when he takes tourists fishing. Now, I will not accept as a premise that this part of the resource, the mutton snapper, lane snapper, mangrove snapper and the other desirable eatable fish that are caught by the hook and line fisherman are in danger at this point in time. My only belief in that, albeit not scientific, is that I can go out any day and catch a live well full of these fish. Part of the article that started this discussion stated that one of the reasons for the fish population decrease in that part of the world was due to dynamiting to get the fish. Fortunately we have not adopted that tactic. But what and who creates the excessive, excessive being the key word, demand for the fish? Is it the local fisherman whose family for generations has relied on the sea to provide fish for them and the other locals? Or is it the huge influx of tourists and condo buying gringos, like me, that come here and create the demand for more and more restaurants with "catch of the day" specials?

So just for the sake of the discussion, let's say that the resource will be in danger at some point in time. Would it not be reasonable then to say that, in order to protect it, since it was not in danger prior to tourists coming here that tourists can no longer eat fish, only the locals can eat fish? Absurd, yes. But does it not identify the problem?

So my point being, I think it is hypocritical for us to expect the locals to stop what they have been doing for generations at this time. Sure advances have been made by promoting catch and release for game fish and we tourist fisherman can take credit for adopting that when we fish here. A minor point. Don do you and your friends also use barbless hooks? If you do, I commend you. The vast majority of the fly fishermen I see here do not.

Finally, as long as there is this demand for fish to eat, I believe that the tourist hiring the guide to take him snapper fishing and allowing the guide to take that catch back to be utilized to fill the demand is far better than by not doing that therefore encouraging the use of netting and fish traps, and maybe at some point in time dynamiting, is a far better alternative to fill the demand that we have created.

Bottom line, before we start telling the local he should not be keeping the fish he catches because he is the problem, should we not look at the problems we have created. My belief is that an honest look at that shows that our demand for land to build condos on and restaurants to go and eat fish in is a greater threat to the resource.

Last edited by bywarren; 04/20/07 06:42 AM.
Joined: Dec 2006
Posts: 993
There is no offense taken Bywarren.Your points are well taken. It's the age old problem. The catch 22 if you will allow. The fishermen of Belize plied the waters to feed himself and familys. For generations they took only what was necessary to sustain themselves and others.Along comes the "Tourist" and economic picture changes. Fishing now becomes a source of income not a subsistance nessecity.This,as far as the industry goes,is all well and good, and the entire tourist industry has raised the standard of living for many many Belize citizens. To continue to harvest fish for the sake of resale is not in and of itself a bad practice. However,overfishing plagues many parts of the world and could at one point be detrimental to Belize. Then we fishing tourists will go elswhere to enjoy that activity.

It was suggested by Don:

"But an answer may be as simple as discouraging the tourist inshore bait fishers from taking more fish than can be eaten at one meal,,, "

That statement was what brought me into it.
MY contention is:
It's not the tourist who is/could deplete the available fish. Most do practice catch and release. It's the guides who take all the fish caught by thier charters.With little regard to the numbers, or sizes of the catch to further thier profits. I understand where of you speak that it's the hotels, resturaunts who require that fish to feed the tourist.This could be supplied by fishfarms to supplement any shortfall by way of Quotas set forth in fishing regulation.The resources may be there, at the moment. The depletion of the resource,I belive, is inevitable if restriction of catch sizes and limits are not put in place.

Your point of the dredgeing to produce land to build more condos is also part of the problem. There in lies the dilema.Build condos, bring in more and more tourists, more and more resturaunts, more fish eaters, taking more and more fish to meet the demand and on and on. Or, limit the condos, maintain a sustainable Tourist population, set size and catch limits thus saving not only the environment, but the fish that will be surely be depleted if the current growth continues unchecked. It is predicted that by 2050 this depletion of fish will occur in many parts of the world. I hope belize is not one of those places.

BTW on a side note. I use and encourage the use of circle hooks. They do far less damage to the fish than even a barbless hook.

Never Use money to measure wealth
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