The Government of Belize has rejected a two million dollar offer that was to be used in the fight against gill nets. In a release issued yesterday by the Belize Press Office, it noted that Cabinet decided that there would be a series of measures put into place to control the use of gill net in Belize’s waters. Those measures include an immediate moratorium on new gill net licenses, a restriction on the importation of gill nets and its size, as well as the prohibition of licenses for permanent residents. OCEANA responded right away to the release from the Government, expressing total disapproval of the Government’s refusal to put a ban on the use of gillnet. According to Janelle Chanona, Vice President of Oceana Belize, some of these measures listed in the release were already put into place and were failing.
Janelle Chanona, Vice President, Oceana Belize: “To me it would be very difficult to enforce what they’re talking about. Please be reminded that many of the things listed there are already law, we were already unable to monitor whether gill netting was happening in marine protected areas and other places that it was already banned, mesh sizes had already been changed. Again this is a long standing issue. There have been multiple attempts to resolve it. We cannot keep doing the same thing and expecting a different result. There was an opportunity, there will be other opportunities, we stand ready to come back to the table. We have met in good faith but the chips will fall where they may as well and we have to point out what actually may have been the motivations towards this and I have questions and I again would have hoped that we could have come to the table and had a conversation but if that is not to be then we will continue to work to highlight what needs to be highlighted to the Belizean people. These are shared national resources and everyone has the right to make sure that they play a meaningful role in the management of those resources. We’ve been meeting with multiple CEOs, multiple ministers, we will continue to be partners at the table and have those conversations but at the end of the day the information will come out and the public will be in a position to determine why things are turning out the way they are and play a role in making sure that what needs to happen does happen in the end.”
Also commenting on Government’s announcement was Belize Territorial Volunteers. Wil Maheia, one of its founders, issued a statement earlier today.
Will Mahia, Belize Territorial Volunteers: “I want to say how disappointed we at the Belize Territorial Volunteers are with the press release that came out of the government press office yesterday talking about the gillnets. First of all it’s a complete joke to ban gillnets only south of Punta Gorda Town. Between and Punta Gorda Town and the Sarstoon yes there are some gill net users but the majority of gill net users are north of Monkey River, so they are just like using that as an excuse. The other thing they are talking about is having gill net be seasonal. Which season, you just put out seasonal like that? You expect people to buy the crap? I’m just saying that the Government of Belize has taken away $2 million dollars that could have gone to fishermen to help them to transition but they chose not to, they chose to stay the route of corruption and to ruin this country with gillnets. I hope the authorities look at what they’ve put out and correct what they have put out because as of now that press release that came out is nothing but a joke.”
Also, in disagreement with the government is Senator Osmany Salas who stated that the measures from the government are incomplete. Salas noted that the NGO’s have not given up and will continue to fight this gillnet issue.