On Friday, a group of fishermen proudly posted pictures of their catch on Facebook. All would have been well, if the men weren’t fishing for Tarpon. Tarpon one of the three protected species of fish in Belize, used only for catch and release. Communications Director at OCEANA Belize, Alyssa Carnegie, told us more about the importance of protecting these species.
Alyssa Carnegie – Communications Director of Oceana: “Protected species like Tarpon, Bonefish, and Permit are really important to Belize’s economy. As you know we are a nature-based economy so it means that people come here all the time to enjoy our natural resources and pay for those experiences. Protected species like Tarpon and Permit are especially crucial to that. I believe Mr. Mike Heusner if you talk to him he will tell you that these fish are worth tens of thousands of dollars more alive because of the many people that pay to come and enjoy the experience of catching them and releasing them so the lifecycle can be continued to be caught then released. As opposed to being caught and sold at the market for maybe $5 a pound and then the fish dies, then you kill that cycle. These fish are definitely worth more alive than they are dead and it is facilitating the foundation of a very lucrative niche market in tourism.”
Since it is against the law to fish for Tarpon, we tried to get in contact with Fisheries Administrator, Beverley Wade, but she was out of office. Fisheries Officer, Rigoberto Quintana, however, did confirm to us that they have received a report.
Fisheries Officer, Rigoberto Quintana: “We did get the report and we are looking into the matter because there is a lot of issues with the electronic evidence, it is not something automatic that we can just charge people.”
Back in 2017, another fisher had posted his Tarpon catch, prompting public outrage. The fisher had apologized and taken down the picture, but this latest incident shows a need for public education concerning the protected species of fishes.