Legislation will protect the second largest reef system in the world from the destructive fishing practice.
All forms of trawling in Belize have been banned in the country’s waters including its exclusive economic zone (EEZ) when Fisheries Minister Rene Montero signed the Statutory Instrument effecting this legislative change today.
The ban, effective December 31, 2010, is a historic decision by Prime Minister Dean Barrow’s administration, which has been making these environmentally friendly decisions on the heel of the threat from UNESCO that it would strip the Belize Barrier Reef System of its World Heritage Site status.
The call to ban bottom trawling had been made some years ago but lacked the political will, as the government was faced with the reality of what to do with the existing trawlers owned and operated by the Northern Fishermen Cooperative Association (NFC). Oceana in Belize collaborated with the government in resolving this concern by negotiating the buyout of the two shrimp trawlers.
After consultation with the fishermen directly affected by the proposed ban, Oceana was able to secure the full support of the Belize Fishermen Association, which has a membership of four cooperative organizations including the NFC. In the letter, signed by the Chairman Allan Bevans Green, Vice Chairman, Carlton Young and Secretary Ovel Leonardo Sr., the BFCA expressed support for the buyout of the trawlers. “By our support of the sale of the two trawlers to Oceana, the BFCA also agrees to support Oceana in its Endeavour to ban all trawling permanently within the waters of Belize,” concluded the letter.
Belize has become the one of the first countries in the world to institute a complete and permanent ban on trawling in all its waters. Indonesia had enacted a ban some 30 years ago, but opened up selected areas for trawling in 2009 despite the problems of overfishing.
The Belizean Government is presently in the process of revising its fisheries laws and formulating a comprehensive fisheries policy to deal with the management of the Belizean fishery.
Vice President for Oceana in Belize, Audrey Matura-Shepherd, says that this is a historic milestone in the life of Belizean fishermen and the environmental community because “it is indicative of the partnership that could be forged for the betterment of the people and country of Belize. We thank the government for its bold decision and look forward to being able to work with any administration on marine issues for the development of Belize”.