In March last year, Oceana Belize and the Coalition for Sustainable Fisheries claimed that the Ministry of Blue Economy was taking steps to reverse the ban on the use of gillnets in Belize. The allegations were denied by Minister Andre Perez who stated that after taking office he was made aware of a lawsuit from the Belize Fishermen’s Cooperative Association, which was seeking to challenge the gillnet ban in court. In response, Perez and his team sought legal advice and proceeded to engage the conservation community. Minister Perez gave us an update on those discussions.
Abner “Andre” Perez, Minister of The Blue Economy and Civil Aviation: “The Blue Economy makes it clear we are partners, we engage with them at all so anybody that’s involved there. We’re talking about fishing cooperatives, we’re talking about communities we are in this together. It is law, it is binding, it’s already been signed so we must adhere about it and I don’t see anything there that we are going to be repealing this at all it is gone and we’re discussing it. Nothing to discuss really it is law however I think we are being engaging with them as to how we can look at alternatives of how we can harvest the seas.. The gillnet has been banned but now there is a bounty out there of shrimps. You know that there is a shrimps scarcity in the country so either we import or we allow some type of artisanal fisherfolk to start to harvest this shrimp that is out there. But again talks will be going along with them I do have messages from people from Oceana we’re meeting with them and discussing the way forward.”
Responding to Minister Perez is Vice President of Oceana Belize, Janelle Chanona. Chanona told Love News that talks surrounding gillnets have not been had with the Minister since July 2021.
Janelle Chanona, Vice-President, Oceana Belize: “I’m very surprised by that statement because, and just to be completely candid with you when the minister was appointed or actually right after elections we reached out to the minister saying we would like to meet and share what’s happening with our work and that was November. In December we had organized for a presentation to be done, that didn’t happen because that’s when the fishermen cooperative had said that they were going to challenge the ban, the process that led to the ban and the ministry specifically CEO Carrillo informed us that they had gotten legal advice that they weren’t to have any communication with Oceana because of that lawsuit. So we respected that, that process made its way through the court up until July 2021 and we had had no contact with the ministry about gillnets or any other plastics or anything else that we had been working on.”
The ban on the use of gillnets in Belize came into effect back in 2020 six days before general elections, under Statutory Instrument 158 of 2020.