The Fisheries Act governs the Belize Fishing Industry; however, it was enacted in 1948 and is now antiquated. As a result, many non-government organizations have drawn attention to the need to enact a new fisheries bill. Today, the Belize Network of NGOs issued a press release calling on the Government to address illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing activities by introducing the proposed Fisheries Resources Bill at the next sitting of the House of Representative. Love News spoke with Valdemar Andrade, the Chair of Fisheries Bill Task Force.
Valdermar Andrade, Chair, Fisheries Bill Task Force: “We have worked to fine tune the technical aspects that have to do with manage access, landing sites, new species for protection, developmental finds that are conversant with the fisheries crime that would be committed, ensuring that there is traceability that we are able to track vessels so there’s a lot that has gone into this bill . I think it is time enough that we ask the government to now put this bill forward into an act because the whole effort is in order to modernize our fisheries resources bill. Along the way there were some aspects of technicalities where we have had to make adjustments, we had to make sure that the legal language was tight enough, we also in the nine years we’ve done consultations with everybody including the finishers, resource users, protected areas managers, the government. We also had to do multi departmental consultations to ensure that the recommended bill was not impinging on any other legislation whether it be lands, whether it be port authority and so all of those kinks have had to be worked out over time. I think we are 90% there and it’s hard to get a bill that 100%.”
Senator Osmany Salas said that enacting the new bill will strengthen enforcement and promote sustainable fisheries management.
Senator Osmani Salas: “We as a network, the Belize Network of NGOs felt it important to add our support to the groups of NGOs that have been working tirelessly to work towards a modernized fisheries legislation. So TASA, Turneffe Atoll Sustainability Association and a number of other NGOs have been part of a working group to prepare a modernized fisheries bill. The Fisheries Department has been on the table, key in this, and my understanding is that they are supportive of the draft bill in its current format. The current legislation is highly antiquated, it dates back to 1948 from what I understand. Since then that’s about 70 years, since then there have been a lot of new developments, there’s co management where you have NGOs collaborating with the government in the management of fisheries resources and marine protected areas, there is manage access, the fines, the penalties are very old and they need to be revamped so that they serve as an effective deterrent to the illegal unreported and unregulated fishing that is happening. The point is that those two agencies the Coast Guard and the Fisheries Department have a huge swath of marine territory to cover it’s huge and there is so much happening in our marine territorial water- illicit activities and challenges and pressures, they certainly need more equipment, probably more boats, increased budget for fuel for operations , patrolling our waters should be a round the clock seven days a week three hundred and sixty five days a year undertaking.”
The release ended by stating that illegal fishing threatens the livelihood of over fifteen thousand Belizeans who depend on fishing and negatively impact the economy of Belize.