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MOU On Gillnet Ban Signed between MFFESD and the Coalition for Sustainable Fisheries

Belmopan. March 3, 2020. In December 2019, Cabinet approved measures from the Ministry of Fisheries, Forestry, the Environment and Sustainable Development (MFFESD) to control the use of gill nets in Belize’s maritime waters. Based on input from fishermen, concerned citizens, economists and marine experts, these measures were intended to control the negative impacts of gill nets while protecting the income rights of gill net fishers.

In line with Cabinet’s decision, the Ministry of Fisheries, Forestry, the Environment and Sustainable Development recently signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the Coalition for Sustainable Fisheries, a registered local non-government organization representing Belize’s commercial fishermen, sports fishers, game fishers and conservation organizations, and who are also funding the livelihoods transition programme.

This MoU reiterates the conditions and timelines for a successful phase-out and livelihoods transition that would conclude in a ban to be instituted throughout Belize’s maritime waters by March 31, 2022, at the latest or earlier when the livelihoods transition of fishers is successfully attained. It also sets the framework to determine the eligibility of gill net fishers for the livelihoods transition programme, which includes those gill net fishers licensed in 2018 who presently meet the legal requirements as stated in Statutory Instrument 81 of 2019. These legal requirements state that only Belizean citizens, and who have been resident in Belize for the past six months, and who sell their fisheries products only in Belize, will be eligible for the livelihoods transition programme. A vetting committee will be established to determine this eligibility.

The Coalition for Sustainable Fisheries has raised BZ$1.5 million dollars for transitioning gill net fishers to more sustainable livelihoods, and parameters have been established under the MoU for determining when the transition process is successfully complete. These measures are intended to ensure that Belize’s fisheries will be sustainably managed for the benefit of Belizean fishermen. The end goal is to ensure the sustainability of Belizean fishing jobs and enhancement of Belize’s food security.

Eligible gill net fishers are asked to contact the Coalition’s office at 670-3206 to set up an appointment to discuss their transition.

**The members of the Coalition for Sustainable Fisheries include the following organizations:
Belize Tourism Industry Association, Belize Game Fish Association, National Sports Fishing Association, Belize Federation of Fishers, Turneffe Atoll Trust, Yellowdog Conservation and Community Foundation and MAR Alliance

OCEANA: Belizean Fishers Could Benefit From Bz$2.5 Million Transition Process If Gillnet Ban Is Decisive And Meaningful

BELMOPAN, BELIZE – Since 2009, Oceana has been supporting the call of Belizean fishers to have a form of fishing called gillnetting banned in Belizean waters. In December 2019, the Barrow administration took the historic step of declaring this gear inherently destructive. Since then, Oceana has been engaged with the Prime Minister, the Minister and Ministry of Fisheries to identify our role in the reasonable transition of Belizean users of this gear to alternate means of fishing.

At present, the total offer of transitional support to Belizean fishers has increased to 2.5 million Belize dollars, one million Belize dollars of which has been raised by Oceana. To this end, Oceana has shared a draft agreement that repeats the same clauses contained in the 2011 contract signed between the Government of Belize and Oceana when trawling was banned. This new agreement would be tied to a gillnet ban in the same way and would provide that if any future administration seeks to alter or lift the ban, specific measures, including notification of such intention as well as a repayment of funds provided for transitional support, will go into effect.

If accepted, the Belizean fishers in need of transitional support would receive the maximum financial support possible: 2.5 million dollars. The funds raised by Oceana would be used to buy gillnetting licenses from Belizean fishers via in cash, monthly payments made directly to fishers through the Belize Credit Union League, which would complement the supplemental income training opportunities program. The agreement would also guarantee stability in their transition to other forms of fishing activities. And as it has done in the case of trawling, these clauses would effectively deter those interested in undermining the commitment of Belize’s commercial fishers to the long-term integrity of Belizean fisheries and marine habitats as well as undoing the critical leadership that this administration has taken to support that commitment by mandating both accountability and transparency in the decision- making process.
Eligible gillnet fishers are therefore asked to contact Oceana’s office at 822-2792 for more information on how they can document their support for the agreement and therefore, access the maximum amount of funds on offer for their transition away from gillnets. Oceana wholeheartedly congratulates the Government and people of Belize on this historic policy change.

“Today’s announcement has been more than two decades in the making. This is the result of the passionate commitment of Belizean fishers, NGO partners and supporters of marine based livelihoods to sustainable fishing practices”, says Janelle Chanona, Vice President of Oceana. “Oceana is proud to work with and champion the voices of Belizeans countrywide who never stopped advocating against this inherently destructive fishing gear.”

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