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Who are the Gillnet Fishermen? BFF tells Fisheries Dept to “show me the List”

The Belize Federation of Fishers (B.F.F.) is one of the leading fisher organizations that have been lobbying for the ban on gillnet use in Belize. Gillnets are indiscriminate and kill anything that it comes in contact with. The BFF had been so vocal that it was punished and replaced on the Gillnet taskforce by the B.F.C.A., which the BFF alleges is an organization only by name and does not represent the commercial fisherfolks. But who are the fishers who use gillnets? In 2018, the Ombudsman, Lionel Arzu wrote the Fisheries Administrator Beverly to provide the information Under the Freedom of Information Act, that would reveal the fishers who have gillnet license and any documents related to registered gillnets. The information has not been forthcoming. Nigel Martinez, the Director Belize Federation of Fishers alleges that a significant number of gillnet fishers are from south of the border.

Nigel Martinez Director, Belize Federation of Fisheries: “Majority of the Gillnet fisheries are not from here and we have been saying that categorically and explicitly and we are a bit frustrated because we feel as if though this is our resource, this is our home, this is our country and when it is all finished and gone these people will just go back to their country and we are saying to the Fisheries Department “provide us with the list”. Let us know, let us see who these people are and what region they belong and that will give us a good sense and idea of how we can address the situation.”

Jose Sanchez: “How long have you been asking the Fisheries Department for this information?”

Nigel Martinez Director, Belize Federation of Fisheries: We have from the first Task Force Meeting. The BFF specifically have requested this information and both the CO has instructed the Fisheries Department for her to provide added information to us. As of this date I can tell you that that has not been the case. We have provided a foyer list that also demands a certain amount of information in terms of licensing and in terms of export permits. Again that has not been provided to us. The Ombudsman has also written to the Fisheries Department again asking her to provide the information to us and again this has not been forthcoming so I believe the other step is litigation.”