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TRANSPARENCY = SUSTAINABILITY

Oceana calls for the release of all relevant data on gillnets to support informed decision making

On  Friday,  July  27th,  2018,  Oceana  wrote  to  Fisheries  Administrator  Beverly  Wade  to  request  all  relevant  data related to the use of gillnets in Belizean waters, including the list of licensed gillnetters. It is our position that this data should  be  available  to  the  public,  as  it  is  our  collective  right  as  citizens  of  Belize  to  be  fully  informed  about  who  is accessing our shared natural resources and how they are doing so.

Oceana maintains that responsible fisheries management should include shared data and information about publicly owned resources. We reassure the Belizean public that we will continue to push for transparency and accountability in the process of fisheries management.

After  more  than  two  decades  of  “conversation”,  it  is  time  that  all  the  issues  related  to  gillnets  are  addressed objectively, transparently and in support of national efforts to ensure sustainable fisheries management, elimination of corruption  and  increased  accountability.  The  more  than  2,700  Belizean  commercial  fishers,  the  more  than  2500 Belizean  sports  fishing  guides  and  everyone  else  who  wants  to  see  fishing  not  go  the  way  of  the  Sawfish,  the  Sea Cucumber and every other collapsed fishery, deserve nothing less than full transparency.

The  mandate  of  the  recently  commissioned  Gillnet  Task  Force  is  to  “reduce  the  harmful  impacts  of  gillnets”  which affirms  that  gillnets  have  harmful  impacts. According to the Fisheries Department, of the 2,716 fishers licensed to commercially fish in Belize, gillnetters represent 6% or 169 fishers. The use of gillnets are already banned in all Marine Protected Areas, at Spawning Aggregation Sites, at the mouth of rivers and should not be used near the shorelines of Monkey River or Placencia. Under law, all nets must be registered and there are specifications related to the size of the mesh as well as the how nets may be placed.

However,  a  lack  of  monitoring  and  enforcement  has  meant  that  gillnets  are  consistently  being  used  in  places  they shouldn’t be and in ways already prohibited  by law. Moreover, Belizean fishers assert that this is the gear of choice in illegal fishing activity. Gillnets are therefore undermining the “protected” status of several species via bycatch, general sustainability efforts and most significantly, compromising the livelihoods of thousands of Belizeans who depend on a healthy sea.

It is Oceana’s position that  this  gear  can  be  phased  out  and  that  the  169 fishers  licensed  to  use  this  gear  can  be supported  to  transition  to sustainable gear  and  alternatives.  We therefore  look  forward  to  the  release  of  this  key fisheries  data  by the Belize  Fisheries Department. Informed decision making is the only way forward. Belizean fishers deserve to keep fishing and if done sustainably, Belizeans will always be able to fish.

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