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Belize Passes Legislation Prohibiting Possession and Use of Gillnets

Press Release, Oceana Belize, Belmopan, Belize – In a landmark step to protect livelihoods and strengthen marine conservation, the Government of Belize, on Thursday, November 5, 2020, passed the Statutory Instrument 158 of 2020 titled Fisheries Resources (Gill Net Prohibition) Regulations 2020, banning the possession and use of gillnets in Belize’s marine territorial seas, Exclusive Economic Zone and internal waters. This legislative step thus, renders all gillnet licenses invalid.

This decision and action have been welcomed by Oceana, 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.

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”, stated Janelle Chanona, Vice President.

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

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