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Fisher Folk are Condemning GOB’s Decision to Allow Permanent Residents Access to Fishing Licenses

As Shyne takes steps to claim the seat of the Leader of the Opposition, some fishermen are still looking to see what steps they can take to restrict the issuance of licenses. In 2019 the Barrow Administration had passed a Statutory Instrument (SI) in which permanent residents were no longer eligible for fishing licenses. Fast forward to May twenty-five this year, and that decision was reversed by the Briceno administration through the Ministry of the Blue Economy in SI Number fifty-seven of 2021. Since news of the change a number of concerned fisherfolk have been up in arms, leading to a move by the Belize Federation of Fishers (BFF) condemning the move that would allow Permanent Residents to also obtain commercial fishing licenses. According to the Director of the federation Nigel Martinez, the decision was done without any public consultation and seeks to undermine Belizean fishers who are already competing in overcrowded fishing grounds.

Nigel Martinez, Director, Belize Federation of Fishers: “We learned of this late last week and it immediately sound the alarm. We scrambled to get our members up to date as to what has transpired and we believe what the Ministry of the Blue Economy did was completely undermine the rights of Belizean fisherfolks and because of that they have now opened up the door back for permanent residents to access our natural resource, our fishery which is already overpopulated, which is already crowded. And you have a number of fishers here today that will tell you the same sentiment that they are frustrated because it’s not getting easier, it’s very expensive to go out there, the issues are the same there’s no enforcement, the manage access program is now working, there are several components that are not working that are affecting the fisheries right now. So when we found out about this we had to inform the fishers because by large you will hear it from them today that no one knew about. In 2019 we had lobbied with the then administration to ensure that we protect the benefit of our Belizean fishers. Now how can you tell me that a permanent resident can come to our jewel, state that they lived here for six months and get access to our fishery when we have our fishermen right here right now some of their kids can’t even access the fishery and unable to get a fisherfolk license. It’s difficult so we can’t accept that. And we are asking the minister to ensure that he rescinds what he has done because SI 57 of 2021 is unfair, it’s unjust and the fisherfolks are here today to state that.”