The financial contribution to the banning of gillnets has increased to 2.5 million dollars. One million was raised by Oceana Belize and 1.5 million was contributed by the Coalition for sustainable fisheries. Oceana has shared a draft agreement that repeats the same clauses contained in the 2011 contract signed between the Government of Belize and Oceana when trawling was banned. The Government has yet to sign the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) for the 1 million funded by Oceana which boldly outlines that if any future administration intends to alter the ban, repayment of funds must be provided.
Janelle Chanona, Vice President, Oceana Belize: “The one million that we have raised we sent a draft of what that contract would be to the government specifically to the Prime Minister, it has already been shared with the Ministry of Fisheries so we’re waiting to hear back on what the government thinks about those conditions. To outline what those conditions would be we are asking for essentially an insurance policy. From the beginning this effort has been about the fishers. they’ve been the ones saying we need a gill net ban, they’ve been the ones saying we want to commit to sustainability but we need to be supported and that’s why we stepped out of our traditional role and raise this this million dollars, but because of that and because they would be changing everything that they’re doing in terms of their approach to fishing it’s really about giving them some stability in this. We don’t want that a future administration or a different minister would just up and say one day, you know what I want to change the ban because then their entire commitment to new gear and a different way of fishing would just be jeopardized. So it’s really about giving them that stability that long-term commitment and acknowledging that this is really about a destructive gear and nobody wants to see this gear come back. We’ve heard interestingly that there’s been some concerns about the fact that we’ve included a repayment clause to say that if at any point, which the government has the right to do the government does change its mind – we don’t know how because gill nets won’t stop being in destructive just because of their very nature- but that it would be a liability. Well, the truth is gill nets have been causing havoc, causing economic and environmental damage to the tune of millions of dollars for the last 20 years. It’s really that nationally there is endorsement on this and I think if we did a poll – and we have documented this – the national endorsement is there to see this gear go and to see this gear stay away and the onus would be on any politician worth their salt that they would have to show why it makes sense to lift the ban. That’s the only way that this clause would end up being a liability.”
The Ministry of Fisheries recently signed an MOU with the Coalition for Sustainable Fisheries. This memorandum outlines the eligibility that fisherfolks must have in order to be a part of the transitional support period.
Janelle Chanona, Vice President, Oceana Belize: “As part of SI 81 of 2019 and the new Fisher is law what it would be is for anyone to get a commercial fisherfolk license so not even just a gill net license because that is special permit, any commercial fisherfolk license you would have to show that you’re living in Belize, you’re catching fish in Belize, you’re selling your catch in Belize and you have the receipts the evidence to show that this is actually coming through our formal economy. This is where again just by that nature we believe that the total number of eligible fissures that that is why that vetting has to happen because then even just to come back to apply to get a commercial fishing boat license you would have to meet that criteria first. So once that population of people have been established that’s where the two MOUs would come into play because then that population of eligible fishers that would need to be transitioned would be identified and the two of us would then be able to approach those fishers and say these are the terms that which we are offering. For Oceana’s 1 million our executed arrangement is that through the Belize Credit Union League the funds would be disbursed directly to the fishers on a monthly basis so that they could have cash in hand to pay their bills and take care of their needs while they’re accessing the type of opportunities and training and seminars that would replace the skills that they depended on for further gill net income. So it’s really about making sure that as you’re going to school you don’t have to worry about the lights getting turned off for the water being cut off, it’s so that they’re getting that support in both ways.”
Reporter: Is this indefinitely ?
Janelle Chanona, Vice President, Oceana Belize: “No, it would be based – on I can’t give you the exact amount until the exact amount of eligible fishers are determined because then it would be divided Pro Rata based on the the licensed numbers of fissures that would be deemed eligible, but it would – however many fishers are deemed eligible that total amount of money would be dispersed to that population of people and it would be dispersed on a monthly basis as long as that money is there to be dispersed.”
Once both memorandums have been signed a ban on gillnets is expected to be instituted throughout Belize’s maritime waters by March 31, 2022, or before.