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GOB Says Yes to Gill Nets, OCEANA Says Shame #539478
12/06/19 05:14 AM
12/06/19 05:14 AM
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Measures to Control and Eventually Phase Out Gill Nets

At its meeting held on Tuesday, December 3rd, Cabinet approved a series of measures from the Ministry of Fisheries, Forestry, the Environment and Sustainable Development to control gill net use in Belize’s seas.

The measures were developed using a balanced, objective, and informed approach to the issue. Taken into account were concerns about livelihood from fishermen, citizens and experts surrounding the impact of gill nets on marine life and the economic cost of continued use in contrast to a proposed ban. Recommendations from fishermen, government agencies, non-governmental organizations, and concerned citizens were also considered. These concerns and recommendations were deliberated at length by members of the gill net taskforce.

The measures are to be carried out over a period of two years and are intended to control the overall negative impacts of gill nets in Belize, while protecting the right to income of local fishers. This will commence with legislative measures to expand restrictions on use in Belize, while the continued possibility for a trade-in/alternative livelihood programme is explored with donor support. If critical parameters are met in the future, including the successful transition by gill net fishers to alternative gear or livelihoods, an immediate ban will be considered.

It is important to note that the use of gill nets is already prohibited in all Marine Protected Areas (comprising approximately 23% of Belize’s seas), a half-mile from any river mouth and five miles from the shoreline at Placencia and Monkey River. Unlicensed, illegal, and unreported use of gill nets in Belize, especially within ecologically important areas, is the number one challenge. The approved measures aim to expand the area of sea in which the use of gill nets is forbidden, and includes legislative measures to control licensing, importation, use and reporting.

Primarily, there will be an immediate moratorium on the issuance of gill net licenses to new persons and importation of gill nets will be restricted based on licenses. All existing gill nets will have to be re-registered and licenses will now be for a seasonal duration. The allowable mesh size will be adjusted to lessen the likelihood of by-catch of protected marine species. Most importantly, the use of gill nets will be forbidden in the southernmost waters, south of Punta Gorda, that are important for ecological and biodiversity conservation. Related to this, the amendment to the Fisheries Regulations has already been enacted by the Minister of Fisheries to prohibit permanent residents from obtaining fishing licenses

Re: GOB Says Yes to Gill Nets, OCEANA Says Shame [Re: Marty] #539479
12/06/19 05:48 AM
12/06/19 05:48 AM
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GOVERNMENT OF BELIZE TURNS DOWN 2 MILLION FINANCIAL AID TO LICENSED FISHERS

Illegal users to benefit from lack of political will to take decisive action on indiscriminate and destructive fishing gear

The Government of Belize has this evening announced that the use of gillnets in Belizean waters will continue. In doing so, the Government has turned down 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 this indiscriminate and destructive gear. In 2018, those fishers numbered 83 persons.

By effectively maintaining the status quo, the Government of Belize has protected illegal and unlicensed users of this gear, and has also failed to safeguard the livelihood rights of the 97% of commercial fishers who do not use gillnets as well as the hundreds of Belizeans who depend on catch and release fishing in the tourism sector.

Oceana will continue to advocate from the position of absolute support for Belizean f is he rs wh o fish sustainably. In doing so, we are collectively protecting Belize's food security interests, the 15,000 Belizeans who depend on health of local fisheries and just as importantly, the marine biodiversity which attracts more than a million tourists to Belize every year.

Oceana assures the public that we will continue to advocate for the integrity of our marine resources and just as importantly, all those who depend on it.

Re: GOB Says Yes to Gill Nets, OCEANA Says Shame [Re: Marty] #539499
12/07/19 06:19 AM
12/07/19 06:19 AM
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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."

Reporter
"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?"

Janelle Chanona
"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."

Reporter
"You said that you know in your heart of hearts "why." Why, Janelle?"

Janelle Chanona
"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."

Reporter
"Have narrow political interests once again trumped the national interest?"

Janelle Chanona
"That is something that I hope you would ask the decision makers and the policy makers."

Reporter
"I am asking you."

Janelle Chanona
"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."

Reporter
"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."

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