OCEANA Laments Loss of An Opportunity
Yesterday OCEANA struck out at the decision, and lamented that in saying yes to gillnets, government had basically walked away from "a two-million-dollar financial aid package that would have been disbursed to licensed Belizean fishers as part of their agreement to transition away from gillnets."
Today, Janelle Chanona who is away held a phone press conference with the media and said that it's a loss for Belize's fishers and natural resources:
Janelle Chanona, Vice President - OCEANA Belize
"This is obviously not the gillnet ban that so many people have been working hard toward."
"This decision will have far reaching implications for both fisheries and tourism, and therefore to our national economy."
"This decision has sent a very mixed message one that threatens the foundation of law and order, as far as fisheries goes, because by failing to prioritize the licensed users of this gear who are willing to transition, those are the people we have been working with and consulting with, ahm, the commercial fishers who aren't using this gear, 97% of them, the catch and release fishers who are being negatively impacted by this gear - I worry that this decision could be interpreted as "breaking the law is not only OK, ah, guess what it will elevate you to a position of priority by the powers that be."
"We should brace ourselves for an increase, possibly, in illegal fishing activity - given that it has been proven on multiple occasions that the majority of the users of gillnets are in fact doing so illegally and that is done by, primarily, a foreign fishing fleet."
"The fact that the primarily illegal users of this gear seem to have more rights than the licensed users of this gear, that is a surprise to me and that I think is a slippery slope and I do worry about what comes next."
"You know this is a loss to Belize. It's a direct loss to the 83 fishers that would have benefitted directly from this, and in some ways a loss to credibility."
"As an advocacy organization, in this particular instance, are you guys in favour or in support of the eventual phaseout of gillnets on the part of government?"
"As I said, I have questions there. I am taking that any step, and I want to highlite that any step towards more responsible fishing is progress."
"As I said, I know in my hear of hearts why this decision was made, I get it. Do I like it, no? Because at the end of the day, we have to be thinking long term, we have to be thinking nationally. If we don't take care of ourselves, and I mean food security, job security, nobody else is going to do it for us."
"You said that you know in your heart of hearts "why." Why, Janelle?"
"Jules, you're a smarter man than me. If it is not for science, if it is not for the licensed population, if it is not to make enforcement easier, only a few conclusions remain and I think that that is what I would hope people are seeing, that they are reading between the lines, it's not just what is being said, but what's not being said that needs to be looked at."
"Have narrow political interests once again trumped the national interest?"
"That is something that I hope you would ask the decision makers and the policy makers."
"I am asking you."
"I have the benefit of being non-political on this. At the end of the day this is a loss for Belize, this is a loss for Belizean fishers, this is a loss very specifically to the licensed fishers, the 83 of them that would have benefitted from the financial aid, and this is a loss to the long term marine biodiversity prospects for our Belizean marine environment."
"OCEANA isn't going anywhere and our advocacy against destructive fishing gear that is gillnets is not going anywhere."
Chanona notes that after the two million dollars for fisher was put on the table two months ago, quote, "to date the Minister of Fisheries did not see it fit to have a conversation with us," end quote.
Widespread Bashing of GOB on Gillnets
Tonight, there is widespread condemnation for government's position on gill nets - which was announced yesterday. It is not the ban that conservationists were hoping for, instead there are measures to, quote, "Control and Eventually Phase Out Gill Nets."
Today, at the Senate meeting, the NGO Senator Osmany Salas said it's a disappointment and one they will fight against:
Osmany Salas, Senator for N.G.O.s
"Its certainly not a gillnet ban. We were waiting with bated breath after all the work that the N.G.O.s and the coalition had done. What came out of the press release from the Government was effectively of more of the same essentially that they need to do a better job in terms of the regulations that are already in place. It was good to hear that you need to be Belizean citizen to get a fishing license or permit. So that is an improvement. It should also had been taken as good news that there would be a gillnet ban south of Punta Gorda. But where south? Is it from Punta Gorda to Sarstoon? It is from Moho to Sarstoon? Is it just the Sarstoon River mouth? So there are a lot of answers and it did not go far enough and effectively the government disregarded the offer by OCEANA and a couple other NGOs to compensate the current users of gillnets, I think up 2 million fund has been set up. That effectively has been put on the wayside."
"Now that the government has taken this measure, how does the NGO community react through, will it be coming together again to pressuring the government again to do away with this 2 year thing and seeing at that time if a ban will be implemented?"
Osmany Salas, Senator for N.G.O.s
"The NGOs have not given up and they will not give up."