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Over the course of two weeks the Fisheries Department held consultation workshops across the country for stakeholders in the fishing industry. The purpose of the workshop was to incorporate the input of several stakeholders in order to update the fisheries regulations that would later move on to adaption and later form part of a future Fisheries Act. The consultations were based on four key factors; limited entry designated landing sites, licensing, and managed access. The fisheries regulations date back to 1977 and since then it has been update a few times and currently needs to be updated to address new issues. Forming part of the initiative is the Administrator in the Fisheries Department, Beverly Wade, along with legal consultant, Winston McCalla of Jamaica and Team leader, Chris Hedley.


“One of our key tasks is just to simplify the regulations that exist; without necessarily making any changes. So, the regulations began in about 1977 and over the years they have been added to, divided and amended and what we have now is a very large set of regulations, a lot of duplication, a lot of inconsistencies and so, the first job is to extract everything that is still needed and remove the rest of it and provide something that is organized in a clearer way and that is easier to use.”


“A big factor is the new act that is coming into being which was drafted in 2011; that act substantially changes a lot of things in the legislation and has an impact into the new regulations and so, if the act came in as it was and we left the regulations, there would be conflict in some cases. The second thing is the need to update; a lot of the regulations go back twenty years and so there is a need to update the regulations and make them more modern. The third driver is that in 1977 since the act was passed, there has been a lot of international conventions has come into being of which Belize is a party; some being regional in Central America, some within the CARICOM and some international and so, the new regulations will also have to reflect that. A very big issue is the expansion of the marine reserves; so, it started off without being rationally done with an irrational framework and it has been very successful broadly speaking but there are so many of them we are trying to put up greater framework around them to make it more consistent.


“One of the things the fishermen are asking about is access to marine reserves.”


“That is a big issue; there are two points: clearly, Belizean fishermen should have access but it has to be balanced against protecting stock so that the stock is not depleted. The broad policy is to ensure that the next generation and future generations will be able to fish. Now, in 2004 the number of fishermen in Belize was roughly 1,300 and today it is a little under three thousand. So, that is good in a way but the problem is that the more people come in, the more we need to balance. What we are balancing is the sustainable use so that existing fishermen and future generations will be able to continue fishing. In some adjoining regions, for example, Jamaica, the fish stock has been completely depleted and Belize is very fortunate in having fish stock but if it is not properly managed in fifteen years, we could have a big problem.”


“What we want to ensure is that when we put in provisions which are speaking about regulating; when you’re looking at provisions dealing with licensing, when you put in regulations that is dealing with any sort of management restrictions, you are now really affecting the bread and butter of those people who are using those resources and naturally those are the areas that you would have more input on by the stakeholder community.”

During the consultations, fishermen requested that licensing terms for various fishing practices be extended to three to five years.