This month the fishing industry is celebrating Fisheries month to raise awareness about fishers, and honour the contributions they make to society. Today the month's activities kicked off with an opening day at the memorial park. The event included booths from organizations that play an important role in fisheries, and presenters stressing the importance of fishers. This year's theme is "Working Towards Zero Hunger with Sustainable Small-Scale Fisheries". We found out more about that and the many events planned for this month.
Ronda Lewis, WCS Assistant Country Director "The purpose being that we want to recognize the contribution that fishers have to our society and our economy. We have a group of activities that we have organized for this month highlighting fishers. We have the fisher of year award whereby we recognize an outstanding fishery. We also have the women in fisheries one as well whereby we bring in the women involved in fisheries and we look at how we can mainstream gender into our fisheries sector."
"The focus for this year's event is the small scale fisheries voluntary guidelines and it basically is one of the first international agreements which look at small scale fisheries and basically it addresses the economic aspects of fisheries governance and it tries to address women and men and the role they play within the value chain of the fisheries sector so that is from pre harvest which means preparation, it is harvest as well, as well as post-harvest where you have your processing and your selling so it addresses all the activates along that value chain."
A total of eleven groups and organizations showcased their services.
The Wildlife Conservation Society, Fisheries Department and the Caribbean Regional Fisheries Mechanism launched “Fisherfolk Month” today in Belize City. All month long, WCS and its partners will host a number of activities and discussions to highlight the important role that fisherfolk play in Belize. The fishing industry, back in 2016, was said to earn in excess of ten million U.S. dollars in revenue and it is an industry that provides jobs and source of food for thousands. Andrea Polanco was at today’s launch and tells us more about why the sector is celebrated every year.
Andrea Polanco, Reporting
There are two thousand, seven hundred registered fisher folks in Belize. But the fishing sector provides jobs for more than fifteen thousand Belizeans and accounts for about three percent of the country’s GDP. But often times the work and contributions of the fishermen and women is overlooked, so for the past four years the Wildlife Conservation Society and its local and regional partners dedicate the month of June as “Fisher folk Month.”
Ralna Lewis, Asst. Country Director, WCS
“It is basically in recognition of fishers and the contribution that they provide to Belize’s society and economy. If you notice, the theme for this year’s event is ‘Working towards zero hunger with sustainable small scale fisheries,’ that just highlights the fact that fishing and the fisheries sector is important to Belize’s economy or society, especially to our local coastal communities. It constitutes a large portion of the diet people consume and eradicating hunger and poverty are all sustainable development goals that as a country we should be working towards.”
Mike Heusner, VP, Belize Audubon Society
“I think more professions should be celebrated and I am glad to hear the fisherfolk are doing it another time. I think people in the tourism industry appreciate different groups of people who contribute to the tourism industry, including fishing for fish products.”
But while the month celebrates the fisherfolk, it also brings into sharp focus the challenges in the sector, from overfishing to enforcement and resource concerns.
“This year conch season was a bit low and that is one issue that they express. It is hoped that management tools such as managed access and existing no take zones will work towards addressing those issues but fundamental to those issues is that you need to have enforcement in place. You can have all of these management tools but you need enforcement in place and that requires resources; financial resources and human resources, obviously. So, that is one of the core things when it comes to ensuring that these management tools provide benefits to people. You need to have that enforcement in place so that you can identify that these things are working and this is what I am reaping by abiding by these regulations.”
“Do we still have the monitoring – such as the drones and those things being used? We always have stories of people who are caught with undersized conch and lobsters?”
“Well, what we found out is that we tested or piloted out the use of some of those things but the type that we really know for these kinds of environment is really costly. But the type that we are really using is surface water patrols, going out there in vessels and patrolling the area. Again, this boils down to the fact that you need money for fuel and people out there – so that is the type of enforcement that we have out there. We see its effectiveness in certain areas especially where you have co-managers present and especially in the central region of Belize where you have the Fisheries Department CCU capture fisheries unit is in place.”
“There are always challenges and the industry is growing to a certain extent and decreasing to a certain extent. I notice where we are now importing fish fillet and at one point we never would have believed that would ever happened.”
The month long celebration kicked off today with its official launch at the Memorial Park. Partner agencies shared information in interactive displays. Reporting for News Five, I’m Andrea Polanco.
As a part of the activities this month, the WCS will recognize a Fisher of the Year, as well as host a number of educational sessions, forums, and outreach activities across the fishing communities in Belize.
Organized by the Marine Conservation and Climate Adaptation Project
of the Fisheries Department and the Wildlife Conservation Society, the Second Annual Women in Fisheries Forum was held today in Belize City. It forms part of the Fisherfolk Month celebrations which is being held under the theme “Working Towards Zero Hunger with Sustainable Small-Scale Fisheries”. The idea of the forum is to highlight the importance of women in the fishing industry and the role they play. Fisheries Administrator Beverly Wade spoke to Love News.
Beverly Wade Fisheries’ Administrator: “In Belize we often look at Fishing as a male dominated activity but even though we do have Fisherfolk women that is directly involved in the actual taking the fish out of the sea. Women play a greater role in the Fisheries sector because when that fish comes in that is where women starts playing various roles along that entire valley chain and besides that also they play and important role when you look at the whole community and household resilience and stability which is important for any sector at the end of the day and so the last forum we taught was very successful event. For the first time it allowed us as women to be in a room to discuss fishing, to discuss their perspectives on fishing and to discuss some of the unique circumstances which surround their role and their ability to continue to perform that role and the second forum is tying now looking at the Sustainable Fisheries Guidelines that was put out by the Fish, Fisheries and Agriculture Organization of the UN (the FAO) to now look at those guidelines which we have formally adapted as a country to now see how we can implement the various provisions in that guidelines and those guidelines have a specific sector that speaks to gender equality, that speaks to the encouragement and the obligation of states really to put in these policies and systems which encourage the greater participation of women and also looks at how we can continue to support their role in fishing.”
About fifty women are registered as fishers in Belize.
The commercial fishermen of Belize are legend and legion. They haul the most prized catch and bring it to our markets or our favourite eateries. But that's only half the story; fishermen aren't the only ones bringing in the meat. Fisherwomen are too. Lately, many women have taken up the profession to provide for their families. As part of Fisherfolk month, the women took place in the second annual Women in Fisheries Forum today at the Biltmore. We stopped by and found out more about this year's forum.
Ronda Lewis, WCS Assistant Country Director "This year we are taking it a little bit further and looking at how we can mainstream gender in the fisheries sector. We are still looking back at that gender action plan and some of the key areas that we identified such as research, communications and so on so today one of the main things we are doing is highlighting in the small-scale fisheries guidelines which looks at securing sustainable small-scale fisheries in the context of food security and poverty eradication."
"The focus for today is primarily women looking at how women, for example, can become empowered in this sector, can have access to information regarding this sector, can look at some of the leadership roles and see how they can become suited to take up some of those responsibilities in the fisheries sector so the focus today is primarily women often times when we think about the fisheries sector we only think about the act of fishing and as a result of that we focus a lot on the men, which is important as well because we want to highlight the key role that men play in this sector but we also want to look at the role of women in terms of that entire value chain. The role that they are playing and highlight the importance of that role."
Sahar Vasquez "Tell us a little bit about being in the fishing industry where we don't really hear the word fisherwoman we mainly hear fisherman."
Jenna Ferguson, Fisherwoman "Well, it is very exciting to me. I know that there is only a small margin of fishing women out there and they have not been highlighted this is a day where we can be highlighted as women because we play a very important role that we do all the work just like the men but still have to take care of the household so we do a play a very important role when it comes to the backbone of the fishing, when it comes to hooking lobster, catching the conchs, cleaning the conchs. We even scrape the fish and sell it so we do all the things the man foes so we do play a very important role."
A total of 50 women in the fishing industry attended the forum.