Belize Makes Global Waves with Historic Ban on Gillnets in Belizean Water

by Carolee Chanona
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In a landmark step to protect livelihoods and strengthen marine conservation, the Government of Belize passed the Statutory Instrument 158 of 2020, titled the Fisheries Resources (Gill Net Prohibition) Regulations 2020. Signed November 5,  the legislation outlines the possession and use of gillnets is illegal in Belize’s marine territorial seas, Exclusive Economic Zone and internal waters. This legislative step thus, renders all licenses invalid with this historic policy change to ban gillnets in Belize. This decision and action have been welcomed by Oceana Belize, Belizean fishers, and NGO partners as a momentous step to protect invaluable marine environments and safeguard the livelihoods of tens of thousands Belizeans. With the enactment of this Statutory Instrument, Belize becomes one of the first countries in the world to put an end to gillnet fishing in its territorial waters.

A Historic Policy for Belize: A Booming Destination for Eco-Tourism

The Statutory Instrument was preceded by a government announced moratorium on the issuance of gillnet licenses in 2019, and a collaborative agreement between the Government of Belize, the Coalition for Sustainable Fisheries and Oceana, to render support to gillnet fishers to transition to alternative income-generating opportunities and to support the voluntary surrender of gillnets.

Collectively, the Coalition for Sustainable Fisheries and Oceana have fundraised BZ$2 million dollars to support eligible gillnet users to transition away from the gear to alternative means of income generation; as well as by providing direct financial support during that process. With a successful transition program in place, those gillnet fishers licensed in 2018 who met eligibility for the livelihoods transition program and agreed to surrender their gillnets, are being transitioned away from this destructive form of fishing. The implementation of the transition program is being overseen by an oversight committee appointed by the Minister of Fisheries, comprising Government, the Coalition and Oceana.

Oceana wholeheartedly congratulates the Government and people of Belize on this historic policy change. Our commitment to the longevity and success of the ban is unwavering. Our efforts moving forward will therefore include enforcement to address the daily and rampant scourge of illegal fishing.

“Today is a very good day. Destructive gillnets are banned, and Belizean fishers will be supported during their transition away from this gear. Based on those facts, we believe any future administration will have a hard time proving to Belizeans that repealing the gillnet ban would be in our collective best interest.”

– Janelle Chanona, Vice President of Oceana, Belize

Oceana Belize continues to work to ensure that Belizeans will be able depend on a bountiful and beautiful Caribbean Sea for generations to come.

ABOUT OCEANA BELIZE

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Oceana is the largest international advocacy group working solely to protect the world’s oceans through science-based campaigns. Since 2001, Oceana has protected over 1.2 million square miles of ocean. Not to mention, more than 600,000 supporters have already joined Oceana. Global in scope, Oceana has offices in Asia, North, South and Central America and Europe. Oceana in Belize was established in November 2009, with significant strides in ocean conservation since. The ban on gillnets in Belize join two more momentous laws to safeguard its marine resources: a ban on all forms of trawling and the indefinite moratorium on offshore oil activities. To learn more, please visit www.oceana.org.

This article was sourced and adapted from Oceana’s “GOB PASSES LEGISLATION PROHIBITING POSSESSION AND USE OF GILLNETS IN BELIZEPress Release here

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