Fisherfolk in southern Belize has raised concerns over how permanent residents and immigrants are accessing the country’s valuable marine products. Senior Correspondent Paul Mahung found out more in the following report.
Paul Mahung, Toledo Correspondent: A group of Fisher folks met to discuss on publicly expose concerns affecting their daily life as local handline fisherfolks in Toledo. Tuesday morning meeting of a group of members of Southern Fisherfolk Alliance Association was coordinated by the association’s chairman Wilfred Dennis Usher.
Wilfred Dennis Usher, Chairman, Southern Fisherfolk Alliance Association: “First time we see like in 40 years our fishermen are not – they’re not able to even cover the expenses, and I want to make clear these are handline fishermen, Belizean fishermen. In PG all handline fishermen are Belizeans and I want to make it clear. So, some of the things that came up right is simple that while we know that climate change is a factor, there is an explosion of fish pot on what they call up lobster shade where they put the zinc under the water bottom. on the water bed so the lobsters go under. So those on our fishing grounds is causing a devastation so we see right now that we’re not even out at sea because the fishermen they’re not even making enough money to buy back their fuel. So, I think this is the time that we we’re looking forward, I mean, most of us haven’t gotten any assistance through the COVID Assistance and so the handline fishermen have not gotten anything so far. So we’re looking forward and maybe this is the time that they can be able to get some assistance in this rough time, because this has been going on for several months now but it has become a breaking point. They don’t have any more money to buy gas to go back out that’s a fact. The truth of the matter is there is not one immigrant that is a handline fisher check the records, their method of fishing is destructive. These are the same people who had gillnet now they’re taking the funds from the gillnet to, to put into fish pot that is extremely destructive to the handline fishers and they’re doing what they call lobster shade. Now the type of lobster shade they’re doing they’re buying these metal zinc and putting it down on the floor, of the bed of the sea. That is extremely destructive and now I believe that is what is causing us now to not be able to make a living. And listen to me they have been doing this now for over a year so this has been going on from the previous administration, and that’s the reason why for so long, no we’re feeling the effects of it but I want to make it clear from the surrounding of Punta Gorda, the surrounding villages there is not one native Belizean that benefits from this gillnet thing because because no Belizeans were involved in gillnets these are immigrants so the nation need to know that. They don’t do handline because they tell you plain that does not pay. So, that’s a fact and as I said this is something I believe the Minister of fisheries, and whosoever is advising should look into.”
Paul Mahung, Toledo Correspondent: The group of local fisherfolks remain firm in opposing ongoing fishing practices that directly affect handline fishing.