The long awaited and anticipated Fisheries Resources Bill was reviewed at the Sitting of the Senate meeting held today. As expected, there was not much debate, as all senators were in favor of the bill. A key feature is that the bill seeks to give powers to agencies like the Belize Coast Guard to guard the seas and have the arresting authority as that of a Fisheries Officer. Senator Osmany Salas gave his wholehearted support for the bill while explaining other factors of it.
Osmany Salas, Senator: “ As has been pointed out the current bill is very outdated to 1948 I believe and since then we have made a lot of advances in Belize in managing small scale fisheries. The outdated law has not made it possible to effectively implement this because the legal framework has simply not been adequate. So as I pointed out and as has been pointed out earlier, to get the bill to have us tabling this bill today and hopefully passing it today represents the efforts of multiple agencies, a lot of people not only government officials but non government organizations, fisheries group and other entities. This bill is embedded in the principles of the ecosystem’s approach to fisheries which is critical to secure long term stewardship of small scale vulnerable fishers, the requirement for fisheries management plans, so greater responsibility in the management of our resources, the legalization of the Fisheries Advisory Council which will be a multi stakeholder council to ensure broad stakeholder input in policy development and management. The bill also speaks to the precautionary approach or the precautionary principle which effectively is a strategy for approaching issues of potential harm when extensive scientific knowledge on the matter is lacking. So it effectively provides guidance to say “When we don’t know we don’t act.” we need to depend on sound scientific data. It strengthens the fines and penalties which are necessary to deterrents to illegal activity. It is a modernized and robust framework which is truly necessary to ensure sustainable small scale fisheries in Belize and I was pleased to learn that the bill has been used as a template in the Caribbean and the Pacific regions.”
The bill also saw bipartisan support in last Friday’s Sitting of the House of Representatives.