Government is accepting written submissions regarding usage of gillnets

Saturday, February 23rd, 2019

In an attempt to better understand the benefits, risks, threats, and impacts of gillnets, the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries, Forestry, the Environment, Sustainable Development, and Immigration advises the public that they are accepting submissions relating to the usage of this fishing tool. The information gathered will be utilized by the Gillnet Taskforce with the aid of an independent consultant and analyze the wide stakeholder input pertaining gillnet usage and the socio-economic and environmental impacts to fishing communities, fisheries resources and marine ecosystems.
After the information is analyzed, the findings will be shared with stakeholders through consultations. It is expected that such information will aid in making sound and informed recommendations as to the future of gillnet use in Belize. Individuals, companies, and organizations are encouraged to submit information relating to gillnets in the territorial waters of Belize. Submissions can be made by accessing the form via this link https://belize.oceana.org/blog/government-announces-submission-period-open-public-submit-information-relation-gillnets?fbclid=IwAR1smNBHxIkzmp6q5t42jyjdoXlTul_JxSbjMLPy8TmKB38mnKpiSi1p0xY. When completed, the form can be emailed to [email protected] with the subject ‘Gillnet Submission.’ For hard copies, mail or deliver to the following address: Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries, Forestry, the Environment, Sustainable Development and Immigration, Old Lands Building, Market Square, Belmopan City, Belize.
Fisherfolk and marine biologists condemn the use of gillnets who believe that it poses a threat to the environment and economy. In San Pedro Town, the fishing community strongly discourages its use. One veteran fisher, Wilfredo Alamilla Sr., shared with The San Pedro Sun that many years ago, he witnessed the damage that such fishing practice can cause. He stated that he and other friends came up to what was a large gillnet near the shore. Upon inspecting it, they discovered many marine species tangled in the net. They got rid of the net and pledged never to use or allow anyone to use gillnets around Ambergris Caye’s waters. “That thing will kill everything, small fish, turtles, manatees, anything, it is not a good fishing method,” Alamilla said.
Other fishing groups that have expressed their disapproval on this fishing method including the sport fishing industry, which is estimated to contribute around $110 million Belize dollars to the national economy every year. They believe that the placement of gillnets on shallow sandy flats increase the likelihood of catching and killing bonefish, permit, and tarpon, which is the bread and butter of the sports fishing business. Those in the commercial fishing industry see it as detrimental to their livelihood as it poses a dramatic depletion of fish stock. Fishing folks continue to denounce the use of gillnets by foreigners in Belizean waters, including marine protected areas in southern Belize. According to them, this activity continues because of the poor enforcement by the respective authorities.
However, some fisherfolk see the use of gillnets as traditional, and they defend this practice as their only way to make a living. Environmental organizations like Oceana Belize continue their advocacy for the complete ban of the use of gillnets. “No matter what position you hold in society, the destruction caused by gillnets can be felt by all Belizeans,” Oceana said in a recent social media post. They encourage every stakeholder across the country to submit their arguments so their opinion, combined with many others, can be taken into consideration by the government and a solution can be achieved regarding the usage of gillnets in Belizean waters.
The cut-off date for submissions is March 29, 2019.

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