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Joined: Oct 1999
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Marty Offline OP
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Today Fisheries Minister Lisel Alamilla met with key stakeholders in the fisheries industry - including the bosses of the principal cooperatives.

It was a consultation session about a very sensitive issue: namely, an early closing of the conch season - as much as two months early. It's no small matter - that two months could mean significant losses in earnings for fisherfolk.

But, the issue is that the Queen or Pink Conch is now listed internationally as an endangered species. At the start of the consultation this morning, the Director of Fisheries, and the Minister made it clear that a delicate balance between conservation and Belize's fourth largest foreign exchange earner has to be struck:..

Beverly Wade - Fisheries Administrator
"What we have today is based on science, its management advice based on current situation, it is also based on our obligations nationally to ensure that we continue to have a sustainable and viable fishery, and also based on our obligations that we have internationally."

"Conch has become important internationally because it's now been listed as an endangered species. For us to look at the best way forward for the conch industry, which translate to the best solution for the individual fisherman and the best solution for the cooperatives."

Hon. Lisel Alamilla - Minister of Forestry/Fisheries
"What is the balance that we need to strike to ensure that on the one hand we safeguard the viability of the conch stocks while at the same time ensuring that our fishers are afforded their continued livelihood."

During that meeting, it was agreed that the conch quota for 2012 has been met, so the season will close about two months early. We spoke with senior fisheries officer, George Myvett to find out exactly when the season closes, and what spurred that decision.

George Myvett - Senior Fisheries Officer
"Classically it's from June 30th to September 30th, but this year because the quota has been realized it will be closed from the 24th of April until September 30th."

"The Industry leaders along with our Minister of Fisheries and Forestry and Sustainable Development have agreed collectively that there is great wisdom in ensuring that a sustainable management continues to be the strategy which we applied to the Industry and so great sacrifices will need to be made but generally there was a feeling that are in the interest of the fishers in the national interest. We have agreed that the season will need to close coincident with the realization of the quota."

So, the closed season, which usually lasts 3 months will now span a little over 5 months, but Myvett stresses that it is a necessary step that must be taken to preserve Belize's conch population.

The season for sea cucumber closed today - which is also early, again, because the quota for the 2012 fishing season has been filled. As a result, no one should buy, sell, or have in their possession any sea cucumber after today.

Channel 5

Fishermen Bawl Hard Times: Short Season = Short On Cash

As we've been reporting, the conch season is closing two months early. The decision was taken because the co-ops have filled their quotas.

But, try telling that to the conch fisherman. Right now, they say, conch is plentiful - and money isn't.

They say that the early closure of the season will mean no big back pay, or second payment - and that means they'll be left out in the cold.

As we understand it, when there's a bumper crop of conch, the Co-op earns more from its international buyers, but that was in the era before quotas.

And now, two fishermen we spoke to say that a top-heavy administration at their Co-op - and the shortened season translates into major losses for them.

Here's what they told us today:..

Jaime Vivas, Northern Fisherman Co-Op
"To me I think it's a way that they use me because if they are going to close off the season on the 23rd right here; why can't they give us our second payment so that we can move on; so that we can depend on that at least for a month and a half."

"We know that Northern Fisherman Cooperative has already reached their quota, which is a limit but all we are asking them to give the members their second payment so that they can live from this month up to the next season."

Cipriano Flores, Northern Fisherman Co-Op
"In the month of May, the conch is plentiful. Today 4 fishermen brought 800 pounds of conchs."

Jaime Vivas, Northern Fisherman Co-Op
"I could have brought 800 pounds."

Jules Vasquez
"How much is that? How much can you sell that for to the Coop."

Jaime Vivas, Northern Fisherman Co-Op
"About $4,000 for the month."

Jules Vasquez
"There are not as much fish, conch or lobster as when you first started fishing."

Cipriano Flores, Northern Fisherman Co-Op
"Yes, but you know what happened. I will tell you, they say conservation but there is no preservation. We need more fishermen for support to protest because the executives and the secretaries are working for their salaries. We want to do a demonstration to the government."

"When we are fighting they will be in their offices. We need people that want to work. We don't need people who sit down and don't do anything. They don't produce, they only collect. They are like vampire; only suck blood."

"At the end of the day, they are in their big houses. They tell us low price and we have to dance to that."

The co-op buys conch from fishermen at six dollars a pound. The conch season closes in six days - two months early.

Channel 7

Joined: Oct 1999
Posts: 84,392
Marty Offline OP
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The conch season for Belize is coming to a close a full two months early this years. The Fisheries Department today announced that the conch season for Belize will be closed on April 24th. Orginatilly the conch season would be closed from June 30th to September 30th. Senior Fisheries Officer George Myvette, Jr explained that the early closure of the conch season is in the national interst of Belize and because the national quota for harvesting has been fully satisfied. Additioally, Myvette says, the early closure will give the local conch population a chance to regenerate itself.

Patrick Jones

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