The Belize Federation of Fishers (BFF) represents about 600 fishers across the country. The BFF is committed to helping members with sustainable fishing methods to keep the fisheries sector healthy for future generations. The BFF is in a dispute with one of the fisheries sector organizations, the Turneffe Atoll Sustainability Association (TASA). The Director of the BFF, Nigel Martinez says that his organization was removed from the board of TASA and that the composition of TASA board is illegal. The BFF says that the $1,045,500 grant given to TASA by the Protected Areas Conservation Trust (PACT) in December should be frozen until the alleged discrepancies are corrected.
The Director of the BFF, Nigel Martinez: “Well you know there has been an ongoing battle with the Belize Federation of Fishers and TASA primarily because we have done a legal opinion that has indicated that they are in contravention of the NGO Act as well as the FIU Act and we have stated to them categorically that the composition of their board is illegal. They have been raising money for Turneffe to which we as a board member are not privy to. We are not aware of those projects and we have stated to PAC that we want them to put a stay on the money because we were never consulted nor do we understand what that money was requested for so we have written to them asking them for them to investigate this matter because they have been operating illegally since April of 2016 and we believe that PAC should have did it’s due diligence to ensure that TASA was in good standing while requesting any proposal through that organization.
Voice 2: “Well at the last board meeting that we attended they voted to remove us off the board and they tried to replace us without Chairman because you know I don’t know what game they are trying to play with that but we had to remove our Chairman because he knew that he was not the person to represent us on that board.”
The Director of the BFF, Nigel Martinez: “ “We want to remember that when the Marine Reserve was formed it was a stakeholder driven board. We are saying that in 2016 that had changed and when that changed the BFF at the time had our Vice Chair of that board removed. We were not formally removed. We were just simply removed and two Sr. Government representatives took control of that board. Currently that board only has a Chairman and a Vice Chairman. There is no other executive position and they have been operating that organization in that manner since 2016. When we brought this to their attention that was when we started to get the personal attacks and as Dale mentioned that was when we were forced to be removed from the board which limited our ability to obtain any information as it pertained to what transpired between them and PAC. They entered into a board meeting on April 16th with four board members. Two they were asked to step down and that left two voting board members. At the end of that meeting the BFF was no longer Vice Chair of that board and the Fisheries Administrator who was originally an ex officio on the board because she represented the Government was then named the Vice Chair of the TASA board which in our opinion conflicts a direct conflict of interest and since then as I have indicated they have only been operating with only two executive positions.”
PACT gave out about 6.7 million dollars at the end of December, 2018. The Ya’axché Conservation Trust received 1 million dollars; the Friends for Conservation and Development, received 1.3 million dollars; the Toledo Institute for Development and Environment got 1.7 million dollars; the Belize Audubon Society received $990,000 and the Southern Environmental Association got $685,820.