Saturday, May 18, 2024

Public consultation on sport fishing regulations held in San Pedro

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On Tuesday, January 23rd, the Coastal Zone Management Authority and Institute (CZMAI) hosted a consultation session with stakeholders involved in the sport fishing industry in San Pedro Town. The meeting touched on revising the Coastal Zone Management Act on Sport Fishing Regulations. The meeting allowed participants to be part of the revision process and provided a platform through which they gave direct feedback on how management and laws of the sector can improve. The meeting also discussed three main points shared by those in attendance.
According to the presenters, the regulations on sport fishing in Belize have remained the same for over a decade. They understand that times have changed, and a revision is needed. The CZMAI representatives noted that they have been doing consultations countrywide to get feedback from the stakeholders. According to their survey of sport fishing on the island, the popular activity involves deep-water trolling and fishing, with catch and release. They noted that San Pedro is known for its catch-and-release model on the island’s western coast flats. The tour guides are considered the gatekeepers of the marine resources surrounding San Pedro.
The discussion at the meeting focused on three main topics. One of them included the current licensing structure. The suggestion was to change the issuing of sport fishing licenses to Belizeans and visitors. The tour guides present said that locals should not be charged. The other recommendation that was discussed in length was enforcement. It was emphasized that tourists must hire a tour guide for such activity. The tour guides suggested that when applying for this license, the visitor should identify the qualified person or enterprise with whom they will be doing the sport fishing trip.
The conversations at the consultation also highlighted the need for more presence of authority personnel of the respective enforcement departments. These include the Department of the Environment, the Forest Department, and the Mining Unit. The biggest concern shared is the unsustainable coastal development that negatively impacts natural resources such as seagrasses, causing beach erosion and mangrove clearance. The main fear from stakeholders is that without these vital resources, industries like multi-million fly-fishing may disappear. As such, they want the new Sport Fishing regulations revised to consider these recommendations.
CZNAI personnel viewed the meeting as productive, and most recommendations will be considered. They noted that the reason for such outreach sessions is to hear the experiences of the local stakeholders and adjust the regulations to suit them and sport fishing better.
All the recommendations shared at the session will be compiled, and CZMAI will return to San Pedro in April to present the first draft of the tentatively new Sport Fishing recommendations for the revised Act. San Pedro stakeholders will then have another opportunity to look at this document and share final suggestions before the document is officially released.

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