Statutory Instrument Signed into Law to Ban Gill Nets from Marine

Posted By: Marty

Statutory Instrument Signed into Law to Ban Gill Nets from Marine - 11/06/20 11:34 PM

In a demonstration of commitment to maintain a vibrant and sustainable fishery sector, Dr. Hon. Omar Figueroa, Minister of Fisheries, Forestry, the Environment and Sustainable Development, has signed into law Statutory Instrument No. 158 of 2020 titled Fisheries Resources (Gill net prohibition) Regulations, 2020, banning the use and possession of gill nets in the marine waters of Belize. The area covered by the ban includes all the sea under the jurisdiction of Belize.

The passage of Statutory Instrument 158 of 2020 concludes a two-year long process which began in 2018 that saw: (i) the establishment of a stakeholder taskforce in 2018 to examine the issue of gill net use; (ii) the development of recommendations in 2019 to phase out gill nets concluding in a ban; (iii) the signing of a cooperate agreement in 2020 between the Coalition for Sustainable Fisheries, Oceana and the Government of Belize to assist gill net fishers to transition to alternative income generating opportunities and trade-in their gill nets; and (iv) the successful engagement of gill net fishers in 2020 in the transition and buy-back process. At the culmination of this two-year long process, with a successful transition programme in place, the use and possession of gill nets in the maritime waters is now prohibited by the gazetting of Statutory Instrument 158 of 2020 on 5th November 2020.

On the occasion of the signing, the Coalition stated, “The Coalition thanks those Belizean gill net fishers who have voluntarily surrendered their gill nets, thereby providing all Belizean fishers with a brighter future. These measures will ensure that productive fisheries remain available for future generations of fishers and will provide security to all those whose livelihoods depend on a healthy marine ecosystem. These include tour guides, restaurant and hotel owners, fly fishing guides and a host of others, all of whom dedicate much time and energy toward safeguarding our natural heritage. The Coalition looks forward to continuing its work with the former gill nets fishers by providing them financial and other resources which will help them to adopt alternative fishing practices.”

Commenting on this milestone, Janelle Chanona, Vice President of Oceana, stated, “The ban on gill nets is a win for all Belizeans. We recognize the sensational voices of all fishers, activists and allies who have ensured that this issue has remained a priority. Oceana reiterates its unwavering commitment to supporting the policies and practices that increase abundance so that fishers can always depend on fishing and so Belize can always boast magnificent marine biodiversity.”

Hon. Osmany Salas, NGO Senator, offered his congratulations and support. He said, “The ban on gill nets demonstrates the serious collective commitment by the Government, NGO community and the public about improving the sustainable management of our fishery resources for the benefit of current and future generations of Belizeans. I offer my congratulations to everyone who worked hard to make the ban a reality.”

The Government of Belize recognizes the collective commitment of the private sector, conservation community and fishers to the sustainability of our fisheries sector and will continue to work to ensure that Belizeans will be able to depend on a bountiful and beautiful Caribbean Sea for generations to come.

The members of the Coalition for Sustainable Fisheries include the following organizations:
Belize Tourism Industry Association
Belize Game Fish Association
National Sports Fishing Association
Belize Federation of Fishers
Turneffe Atoll Trust
Yellowdog Conservation and Community Foundation
MAR Alliance

Ministry of Fisheries, Forestry, the Environment and Sustainable Development (MFFESD), the Coalition for Sustainable Fisheries and Oceana
Posted By: Marty

Re: Statutory Instrument Signed into Law to Ban Gill Nets from Marine - 11/09/20 10:52 AM


The Belize Fishermen Cooperative Association (BFCA) takes this opportunity to formally register its discontent with Hon. Omar Figueroa and the Government of Belize. The BFCA totally rejects the implementation of Statutory Instrument (S.I) No. 158 of 2020.

The Fisheries Resources (Gill Net Prohibition Regulation) of 2020 is a DRACONIAN regulation that will negatively affect the livelihood of thousands of Belizeans, which includes the hundreds of fisherfolks, fish processors (women) and children that depend on this type of fishing for their survival. The regulation has now criminalized and marginalized thousands of bonafide fishers.

In early 2018 a Gill Net Task Force was formed by the Government of Belize to “Reduce Harmful Effects of Gillnets on Marine Life”. After several requests to represent the commercial fishers of Belize as a member on the Gill Net Task Force, the BFCA was finally accepted in September of 2018. That Task Force was dissolved in November of 2019. Unknown to the BFCA a chosen group called the Coalition for Sustainable Fisheries which comprises of Belize Tourism Industry Association, Belize Game Fish Association, National Sports Fishing Association, Belize Federation of Fishers, Turneffe Atoll Trust, Yellowdog Conservation and Community Foundation and MAR Alliance was formed. The BFCA who represents commercial fishers was never invited to be a part of this coalition. In a Press Release dated 20th August 2020 the BFCA learned of an “Agreement signed between the Government of Belize, the Coalition for Sustainable Fisheries, and Oceana to Support Gillnet Fishers to transition to Alternative means”. In this agreement it is stated that a ban would be in effect by January 2022. On Friday 6th November 2020 fishers heard that SI No. 158 of 2020 was signed on the 4th November 2020 by Hon. Omar Figueroa to ban Gill Net fishing in the waters of Belize. The question is, why, Figueroa secretly rushed to sign the regulation without consulting the fishers. Why the mad rush? The fisherfolks are once more disappointed.

BFCA is cognizant that OCEANA has been the malignant force behind the banning of gillnets in Belize and has used its money-hungry puppets to get its way and dictate fisheries policies. In a similar fashion, OCEANA deprived and disenfranchised thousands of Belizeans from access to wild-caught shrimp in 2010, which was a fishery that employed Belizeans including many single mothers. So far OCEANA has not proven that such REGULATION resulted in any improvement of the ecosystem or any fish species. OCEANA’s AGENDA has only caused an increase in POVERTY in all the fishing communities throughout the country of Belize.

In view of the negative effects of COVID-19 and Tropical Depression Eta on the economy, Hon. Figueroa has taken bread out of the fishers’ mouth. A SHAMEFUL, CORRUPT and INEXCUSABLE ACTION.

BFCA also calls out all those two-faced NGO’s that aligned themselves with OCEANA for a meager promise to receive MONETARY support. BFCA formally informs these NGO’s that fishers will no longer collaborate in any of their projects until this matter is resolved.

Therefore, the Belize Fishermen Cooperative Association DOES NOT SUPPORT the banning of gillnets and requests the Government of Belize to retract Statutory Instrument (S.I) No. 158 of 2020. The BFCA will be taking action.

About Belize Fishermen Cooperative Association

The role of the BFCA is to serve as a bridge between the government of Belize (GOB) and the commercial fishing industry. This includes legislation, social and economic matters pertaining to commercial fishing since its inception on 23rd October 1970. Its board members consist of bonafide fishers from the only three existing fishing cooperatives, and other fishers who are not members of the cooperatives. The BFCA is the only true voice of the Belizean Commercial Fisherfolks.
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