And while fish sales were brisk today - prices were driven up somewhat by scarcity. That's due in part to the cold front the veteran seamen told us about, but it's also due to the fact that there are fewer fish in the sea. That's the theme of a feature by Special Correspondent Janelle Chanona.
We presented part one of her "Fish Tale" last week - and this week, we have part two, where she looks at the benefits of conserving the non-renewable fisheries resource:
Janelle Chanona Reporting
The fish debate is actually a bread and butter issue. Statistics for 2011 show that almost thirteen thousand Belizeans are direct beneficiaries while another thousand people are employed in the processing, marketing and service industries. Minute changes in the norm have widespread ripple effects.
A microcosm of this reality made headlines in April 2012 when local fishermen filled the quota for conch six weeks early.
Hon. Lisel Alamilla - Minister of Forestry, Fisheries and Sustainable Development
"Fortunately, they were able to see the immediate benefits of it the following conch season and in fact, some of them have been so bold as to say, maybe we need to close it even earlier because this season has been very, very productive and so that was a bold decision to make."
But bold decisions aside, the "hand to mouth" scenario of the fishers put the spotlight squarely on diversification.
Celia Mahung - Director, TIDE
"Most fishers want to know that they can fish for life and so asking them to do an alternative is really asking a lot."
Celia Mahung is the Director of TIDE, the Toledo Institute for Development and the Environment. The organization continues to introduce new money making ideas to local fishers.
"There's a lot of planning that needs to take place in order for that project to work, the person has to be interested, you need to build the capacity of that individual in order for that person to do well and it takes an investment, it takes initial funding so that you can start your project up; there needs to be monitoring and evaluation of that project as you go along. It's no quick fix."
Hon. Lisel Alamilla
"That's what they know, that's what they do best. It's hard to tell them, well really maybe you should think about doing deep sea fishing because they are not used to that. So that is something that we are as a Ministry are tasked to introduce to them and to convince them that in fact they are opportunities that are unexplored and that they really should consider it and I think that increased or openness to that will really come from the younger fishermen."
According to Minister of Forestry, Fisheries and Sustainable Development Lisel Alamilla, under her watch, GPS trackers on fishing boats, tougher laws and harsher penalties will be tempered with increased support for diversification.
Hon. Lisel Alamilla
"I see my role as trying to bring opportunities and identify solutions at the level that I'm now functioning to see what we can bring to Belize to address those challenges but also important, I think, is that I'm not only looking to see how we can be better enforcers but really to see how we can create more economic opportunities for Belizeans, using our natural resources."
Promising alternative livelihood projects like tour guiding, fly-fishing and the seaweed initiative is already helping to generate hope for the future. But environmentalists and their supporters say any success at sea will be grounded in the public's support.
Evan "Mose" Hyde - Talk Show Host
"All over the world, people know what their national treasure is and they are connected to it. Well the reef is ours and it's our business. Every single one of us, it's our business."
Talk show host Evan "Mose" Hyde is one of the voices calling on the community for support.
Evan "Mose" Hyde
"I think it's our major obligation, I think that to have been given this responsibility to be custodians of this, true treasure of nature and it's the way we identify ourselves, like an ID badge. Anywhere we go, we say, we say who we are. I dah from Belize, we got the second largest barrier reef."
Roberto Pott - Healthy Reefs for Healthy People Initiative
"Consumers need to realize the impact they are having on the fishing industry. We won't buy a small egg--we complain about the small egg when you go to the grocery store. Don't buy undersize seafood because in the longer run, you will end up without. Because people think that we can't end there but that's what you are doing. You are taking away from the stock that will help reproduce come five years down the road and that's what we need to stop--and buying it out of season. It's the same thing that you are doing."
Dr. Melanie McField - Director, Healthy Reefs for Healthy People
"Because we need it--it is politics. These are difficult decisions and any politician that wants to stay in politics has to make decisions that they feel are going to keep the masses happy but I believe that the masses can understand this and do want to see the resources maintained in a long time. Our job then is to make ourselves vocal and visible and let the politicians know we are with them on those tough decisions that will give us resources in the long term. Because that's what we all want; everybody wants to see that reef vibrant, producing sea food, producing jobs and livelihoods and something that we all treasure."
That feature was produced in partnership with the Healthy Reefs Initiative.