Yesterday we brought an interview with Wil Maheia of the Belize Territorial Volunteers who travelled the Sarstoon on Sunday and found that the illegal fishing by the Guatemalans continue unabated despite the presence of Belize’s military at the Forward Operating Base. To add to the offense of entering Belize’s waters, the Guatemalans are doing gillnet fishing; an activity that environmentalists and agencies have frowned upon. Joining the line of those who disapprove gillnet fishing is the Belize Coast Guard; and to express solidarity with the advocacy to ban gillnets; they recently wrote a letter to OCEANA Belize. Commander of the Belize Coast Guard, Admiral John Borland spoke of their position on the issue while citing incidents of how detrimental gillnets can be.
“Gillnet fishing in my opinion, and my opinion goes back more than 25 years working in the environment, is that it’s destructive and an indiscriminate practice where the end results are more detrimental than the beneficial and so that is the coast guard’s position and it’s not only my position there are other people in the Coast Guard that are as equally competent and trained and educated as I am in the marine environment and dealing with best practices and we don’t just do this off the top of our heads there is a lot of research and a lot of analysis and interpretation that has been put into it and so absolutely we are against gill net fishing in the area north of Sarstoon, that area is the primary area that that destructive method of fishing continues to be used and of course we had a very recent incident in an area near to Monkey River called Rocky Point where they were harvesting a lot of species and destroyed a lot that were not their primary targets and it’s wreaking havoc on a lot of the species out there. In some cases shark species we’ve come across hundreds of sharks being harvested through the use of gill nets and it’s absolutely not something that we countenance or support.”
Interestingly, while the Belize Coast Guard is against the use of gillnets, they have not been granted a space at the Forward Operating Base as only the Belize Defence Force soldiers have been placed there.