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Fisher Organizations say time to ban Gill Net use

The Belize Coalition for Sustainable Fishery is the umbrella organization for the Turneffe Atoll Trust, Oceana Belize, the Belize Federation of Fishers, the Belize Game Fish Association, the National Sports Fishing Association, and the Mar Alliance. All these fishing-related organizations have organized to lobby the government of Belize to outlaw one very specific fishing gear, which is gill nets. Love News went to a marine reserve with representatives of the coalition to make a case against gill net use.

Jose Sanchez:Several Fisher Organizations and NGOs have partnered to pressure the Fisheries Department to legislate a ban on Gill nets. We went with the Belize Federation of Fishers and the Belize Coalition for Sustainable Fishery into the Turneff Atoll and found Gill nets within the Marine Reserve.”

Nigel Martinez Director, Belize Federation of Fishers: “We are against Gill net, we have seen the destruction it has caused for over many many years and our members have been crying, the Commercial Fishers have been crying that this gear is unsustainable and there is four argument to this and we as the BFF support a phase out full Ban of Gill net. We are saying that this a Marine reserve, there should be full enforcement, there should be no nets within this reserve so it boils back down to another enforcement factor that enforcement is a major issue and the only way to prevent that is for us to go with a full phase out Ban, we know the regulating bodies are saying that there is not enough enforcement, there isn’t enough fuel to do the patrol, well these nets normally get set in the night and then no one monitors it after that, the enforcement shuts down in the evening so all this takes place in the night so there is  a great great concern and I believe that if we do not address the matter with urgency I don’t think we are going to have sustainable fishery, you are looking at about 169 vs 3000 and as commercial fishers along with another 2000 plus 3000 plus sport fishers so if you want to talk about jobs we have to look about the long term future of the Industry, what this Gillnet is doing is destroying our resource, everything that get caught in it dies and if we continue along this route we won’t have a fisher within the next five years.”

Alex Anderson Belize Coalition for Sustainable FIshery: “I don’t understand how fish juveniles, adults larger than I would say 3 or four inches would be able to get through these nets and so we look at the effectiveness of this gear, we realize that it’s a gear that if you pull three hundred feet of this net anywhere in Cracker channel, thats it anything that comes into its path is going to be there, it’s going to be trapped, it’s not going to be able to come out and so we really want people to understand how effective and efficient this gear is which why we are against it because it’s a very discriminate gear, we need to understand how many commercial fishermen there are in the country, it’s roughly 2700, when we talk about fishermen we also have to remember the Sport Fishermen, that’s roughly 3000 jobs we are talking about so when you look 169 fishers that are license to use Gill net, is it worth 169 license jeopardizing 5500 jobs. Why is that we are jeopardizing you know a $30 million dollar Industry for less than a $1,000,000, and two when we look at the Sport fishing jobs and the amount of economic impact that creates, its over $100,000,000 so why is it that we are jeopardizing over $100,000,000 for less than $1,000,000.”

Jose Sanchez: “ While returning to the city we encountered boats of fly fishers and there guide who also say it’s time to remove the nets.”

Lee Robertson Fly Fisher: “I am from Idaho in the United States originally from Florida but I moved out there now and we just go different places fishing and its wonderful here and I don’t know why you wouldn’t want to build up the Tourism Industry with fishing and other things because you have a beautiful place here.  I think the fishing is wonderful but it was slower than we wanted, we didn’t catch as many fish as we thought we should and I have friends that were here in 1999 and they caught a lot, it was a lot more brisk then.”

Jose Sanchez: “Veteran Sports fisherman Richard Young believes the decline in fish stock is because of overfishing and particularly with the use of Gill nets.”

Veteran Sports fisherman Richard Young: “Within the past 10, 15 years we have seen extreme decline in all the Sports fishing species around Belize which is basically the bonefish, Tarpon, Snook and one of the reason for that is Gill netting and my opinion on Gill nets, Gill nets to me is one of the most and sustainable type of fishing.”

Nigel Martinez Director, Belize Federation of Fishers: “We are apart of the Gill net Task Force and we have attended the first Gill net Task Force and our concern was to ensure that we know who these 169 plus people are, we have requested formally and informally, we cannot understand why the Fisheries Administrator refuse to hear this message, she claim that it is public information but yet we do not have access to it and it’s very frustrating because one of the situation is we want to ensure that we capture those who are Gill netters and those who are doing it illegally and how are we going to do that by knowing who these people are, by going into the different communities ensuring that we speak with them, ensure that we educate them and ensure that we set out a mechanism that will help them, that will help them to transform from what they are doing into something else so I think from that standpoint we are pleading to the administrator of the Fisheries Department to please provide us with the list of these people because they are not going to change our minds.”

Jose Sanchez: “Infractions of illegal products are everywhere; while in Turneffe our guides free tuned our sharks from a Fisherman’s lobster trap. Jose Sanchez for Love News.”

Gill nets are not only used by Belizean fishermen but also by Guatemalans who regularly cast large nets on the Belize side of the Sarstoon.