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Oceana and Shark Fishers Association caught in a battle over gillnets

Oceana Belize is on a mission to phase out the use of gillnets, since it does not lend itself to sustainable fishing. In a letter to the Fisheries Administrator Beverly Wade, Oceana requested a list of licensed gillnetters and related data. Janelle Chanona, Vice President of Oceana Belize explained why gillnets should no longer be in use.

Janelle Chanona – Vice President of Oceana Belize: Because of the way it is set; it is very important for us to stress at every juncture. The idea is not to stop fishing; the idea is to stop the use of a gear that has confirmed harmful impacts. You will not from the Gill Net Task Force that was commissioned earlier this year. The mandate was to reduce the harmful impacts of gill nets so we know they are harmful impacts. This is an opportunity for us to move our fishers, one hundred sixty nine fishers, away from something that has proven harmful effects and we can really put the sustainable in sustainable fisheries management and this is the time to do it.

The Shark Fishers Association is opposed to the idea of banning gill nets, claiming that such a move will threaten their way of life. However, Chanona explained that the purpose is to keep all fishers viable by using viable gears.

Janelle Chanona – Vice President of Oceana Belize: We want to make sure that we can keep fishing viable, the reality is that a gill net fisher does not have more right than a sports fisher. Two of them have families; two of them the same right as Belizean we sit down and mao the next steps in terms of if you are using a gear that is hurting my livelihood how can I get you to move away from that gear so that both our livelihoods are secure. We know the saying that there are many fish in the sea and there are lots of ways to catch those fish. Gill nets are not the only way to catch scale fish: they are not the way to fish. You look at the numbers of licensed fishers the two thousand seven hundred sixteen commercially licensed fishers in this country, one hundred sixty nine; that’s six percent of them using Gill nets so that’s evidence right there again that there are other ways to catch fish and we maintain that once that is selective; it is just because it can mean the relief of fish species that are caught and captured that are biologically important.

Oceana said they are willing to meet with the Shark Fishers Association and share their position. Belize’s shark fishing season will close tomorrow, August 1 and will remain closed until October 31.  During the closure, no person shall take, buy, sell, possess, or export shark meat or fins. For more information, the Fisheries Department can be contacted at 224-4552 or 223-2623.