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Belize Coalition hopes to find an alternative to gill-net

In Belize, there are many who make their livelihood by fishing, but with everything there are restrictions and policies to ensure sustainability and proper usage.  Fishermen who are still in the habit of using gill-net is one of those instances where best practices and sustainability are not being taken into consideration.  The Belize Coalition for a Sustainable Fishery has been trying to ban gill-net since it does not promote sustainable fishing.  The Belize Coalition for a Sustainable Fishery is made up of the Turneffe Atoll Trust, Oceans Belize, the Belize Federation of Fishers, Mar Alliance, the National Belize Sportfishing Association, and the Belize Game Fish Association. The coalition has been trying to establish an alternative to gill-nets that will support sustainable fishing. On The Morning Show, Alex Anderson, the Executive Director for Turneffe Atoll Trust explained that in order to do this, the coalition needs to identify the commercial fishermen who currently use gill-net in order to work with them in establishing an alternative to gill-net, but so far their efforts have been futile.

Alex Anderson – Executive Director for Turneffe Atoll Trust: “Our primary objective right now is to ensure that we collect all the information necessary as it relates to the Gill net issue. We as a coalition, our goal is to see complete net band in this country and I want to try to use four key areas which we use to look at this issue. I am not talking about any particular order but when we talk about Gill net, we want everybody to be very objective, let’s talk about jobs, how many jobs are we talking about, let’s talk and when we think about these things I want us to think about it as Gill net users, commercial fishermen because commercial fishermen represents Gill net users and others that do not use Gill net because they understand the destructiveness of this gear. Secondly I want us to think about; sorry to backtrack a little bit so we have those two. Gill net fisheries, commercial fishers but we do not want to exclude sport fishermen because the Sport Fishing Industry is also a large industry in Belize and so those are the three key areas that we want to think about, thats the other three points. The other key point is that lets look at economics you know how much money is being generated annual by each sector for the Belizean economy, third let’s think about the sustainability aspect of the gear, is it sustainable, is it something that we ought to be using on a global perspective towards sustainable, more gear that is less destructive, less by catch and lastly this is really not the least important point but this is the most important point: figuring out what type of alternative and compensation package would be appropriate for the fisherman.”

Gill-nets often entrap other types of fishes not being targeted hence the reason why it is so harmful to the fishery sector.  Nigel Martinez, the Director of the Belize Federation of Fishers also reiterated how difficult it has been to obtain the list of fishers.

Nigel Martinez – Director of Belize Federation of Fishers: “At the first task form, Gill net task force meeting, I had requested the hundred and ad plus Gill net fishers, we wanted to know who these fishers are because our role as the BFF, we want to ensure that we do a survey to find out who these individuals are, how many people are going to be affected, prepare them for the transition role and to ensure that the benefit, the alternative livelihood comes from them and it’s not a top down approach but a bottom up approach and we have been denied that list, we have requested both formally and informally and we have to date not receive a response as to who these people are and like what Alex said if we are unable to know who these hundred and ad Gill net Fisheries are. It is going to make our task a little more difficult in order to do an assessment.”

One hundred and sixty-nine fishermen are currently licensed with the Belize Fisheries Department to use gill-nets.