Belize became the first country in the world to completely ban bottom trawling, when a statutory instrument was signed into law in December 2010. It was a major step that has earned Belize a nomination for a Future Policy Award. Thirty-one policies from twenty-two countries are on the list of nominees for the prestigious award from the World Future Council that recognizes efforts to create better living conditions for current and future generations. The council focuses on different themes each year and for 2012, the award is for coastal and ocean policies. It took a year and a half of negotiations between Oceana, the National Fisherman Cooperatives and the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries to put it ban in place and it had no opposition in Cabinet. Since then, Oceana has purchased the two trawlers that were owned by the cooperatives and one has been donated to the Coastal Zone Management Authority and Institute to be converted into a research vessel. In other good news, readers of Travel and Leisure Magazine have voted Belize as one of the best travel destinations.

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OCEANA responds...

The world has taken notice of the historic decision of the Government of Belize to work with Oceana and bring about a complete ban in all forms of trawling in all Belizean waters, including our Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ). Belize is the first and only country in the entire world that, at present, has made this unprecedented move placing it in a class of its own in the region and globe and this has earned it a place as a nominee for the Future Policy Award.

The Future Policy Award celebrates policies that create better living conditions for current and future generations. It is granted by the World Future Council, an international policy research organization that provides decision makers with effective policy solutions. In 2012, the award is dedicated to exemplary coastal and ocean policies. This year 31 outstanding policies from 22 countries and regions are in the running for the best policy worldwide to protect oceans and coasts.

As a result of this monumental decision to ban trawling in Belizean waters at the cabinet meeting of March 4, 2010, in February 2011, the Statutory Instrument making it law that there can be no form of trawling in Belize was signed by Minister Rene Montero and gazette as per law. This was a result of one year and a half of negotiations by Oceana with the National Fisherman Cooperatives, which owned the only two remaining trawlers, the Belize Bank that held a lien on them and the Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries, Rene Montero. However, key in the success of the initiative was the input of then Minister of National Security and Senator, Hon. Dough Singh and still Minister of Tourism Hon. Manuel Heredia. Then leader of the Opposition Johnny Briceno also supported the initiative and committed that his party would not make a political issue of the matter and thus mounted no opposition to the efforts of the Government.

“This was a commendable effort by so many key players, even when they were not aware of the tremendous role they each played in this history-making decision that has set our Belizean waters in a stronger position to remain healthy and resilient to the many threats it now faces, most of all this is good news for our Barrier Reef system and hopefully it helps us to retain our World Heritage Status” said Audrey Matura Shepherd Oceana’s VP who was at the center of all the negotiations.

As a result of the negations and subsequent agreements drafted, the trawlers were bought over by Ocean Inc., and one of them has already been donated to the Coastal Zone Management Authority and Institute. The other remains to be donated.

Oceana hopes the Government of Belize is the winner of this most prestigious award as it will bring much positive media to the country and would once again, mark Belize as an eco-destination to attract tourist and thus boost our economy. The nomination, in itself, already brings much attention to Belize’s marine issues.

For this year’s theme the World Future Council is partnering with the UN Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), the Global Environment Facility (GEF) and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), with support from the Okeanos Foundation. Ocean experts from international organizations, academia and non-governmental organizations have submitted nominations. A comprehensive evaluation process is under way and a jury will decide on the winners. The winning policies will be announced at the United Nations Headquarters in New York in September 2012 and celebrated at the 11th Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity in Hyderabad, India in October. Nominations include policies from Australia, the Baltic Region, Canada, the East Asia Region, Ecuador, the European Union, France / French Overseas Territories, Kenya, Kiribati, Iceland, India, Japan, Mexico, Namibia, Norway, New Zealand, Palau, Philippines, Singapore.