AN ON GILLNETS MUST BE DECISIVE - Without meaningful longevity, potential success will be undermined and fishers will be shortchanged
Thursday, February 6th, 2020 – In December 2019, in the context of unwavering advocacy for more than two decades and widespread national support, the Government of Belize took the historic step to declare gillnets destructive.
Within this context as well as changes to relevant fisheries laws as per Statutory Instrument 81 of 2019, in January, Oceana continued to engage with the Ministry of Fisheries, Forestry and Sustainable Development to explore all potential ways forward on this issue of national importance.
But today, Belmopan is proposing a ban with no defined term, which will compromise the restoration of Belizean fisheries and ecosystems. In doing so, the government is passing on Oceana’s offer to provide one million dollars to support Belizean fishers as they transition away from gillnets.
Since 2010, Oceana has been proud to stand alongside passionate committed Belizean fishers, NGO partners and supporters of marine based livelihoods and sustainable fishing practices in the advocacy against gillnets. As a tangible demonstration of our commitment to ensure no licensed fishers would be marginalized, Oceana was able to line up a million dollars to support Belizeans during the transition process.
For this ban to be meaningful, the Government of Belize must ensure that it will achieve the maximum benefits of a ban to fishers and the country by including terms that guarantee the ban remains intact for a set timeframe. Science and regional experience shows that it takes time for ecosystems to recover from destructive fishing practices like gill nets.
By refusing to provide this guarantee, the government is not just walking away from Oceana’s offer of financial support, it is also short-changing licensed Belizean fishermen.
“The Government will decide what happens next here. Given Belmopan’s declaration that gillnets are destructive and national endorsement that they should be banned, Belize needs a meaningful ban. One with a defined term that will help to restore Belizean fisheries and habitat, to the ultimate benefit of all of us.” stated Janelle Chanona, Oceana’s Vice-president.