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Diversification is key in keeping fisheries sector sustainable

The fisheries sector is essential to the economy of Belize and the challenge is to keep the sector sustainable while continuing to put meals on the table of families and generate income for those who make their livelihood from the industry. In this regard, a pilot project entitled “Supporting developing countries in analyzing and implementing evidence-based and policy coherent Oceans Economy and Trade Strategies (OETS)” is being conducted in Belize in order to develop an enabling national policy and regulatory frameworks for the sustainable management of the oceans. The project is being implemented by United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) in cooperation with the Commonwealth Secretariat. Love news spoke with David Vivas, the Legal Officer at the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development about the project.

David Vivas – Legal Officer at the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development: “One issue that is emerging is that there is a need to link the tourism sector, which is one of the biggest in Belize 22% of the gross national product, with the fisheries and seafood sector meaning attract more tourists to enjoy the species that they can do like watching rays or swimming with sharks and also at the same time consume more fin fish, harvested and produced by local fishers and enable and incentivize tourists to consume those products here. People tend to forget that when a tourist consumes fish products or vegetables or fruits from the country those are exports that are being paid in hard currency and bring employment and income opportunities for communities living close to tourist hotspots.”

Vivas said that the objective is to have fishers diversify when fishing in order not to have a depletion of one particular school of fish.

David Vivas – Legal Officer at the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development: “Diversify. Sustainable use of the ocean but diversify the economic activities and make them more sustainable. I think that if you want to conserve you need to enable sustainable use. Conservation by itself is not financially sustainable in the long term so the idea is that we can find alternative uses for the ocean space that we don’t have today. We are looking at other species, we are looking at shrimp and bottom trawling; we’re looking more at the consumption of more fin fish species that are underutilized. There is a lot of utilization of lobster already and conch but the idea is to incentivize the consumption of groupers and other types of fish that may be available that have not been exploited and could be enjoyed by both tourists but also locals.”

Love news also spoke with Rosemarie Cadogan, the Legal Advisor at the Commonwealth Secretariat who reiterated that the purpose is to encourage sustainable fishing by having fishers diversify.

Rosemarie Cadogan, the Legal Advisor at the Commonwealth Secretariat: “The good thing is that this is being done with sectors in Belize so it’s not something that is being done for you and the hope is that by prioritizing certain sectors for focus under this project that we can help now work with you to develop strategies that will help to find ways to make it more sustainable, to help increase trade, increase export but to do it in a way that does not diminish the health of the stocks or the ocean.”

The project supports Sustainable Development Goal number fourteen: “Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development.”