Features — 16 July 2016 — by Albert J. Ciego
Ban gill nets, says Coast Guard

BELIZE CITY, Thurs. July 14, 2016–A gill net is a large fish net that hangs vertically in the water. Floats line the top of the net, while weights line the bottom. The net is made of transparent material, so fish and other animals are unable to see it.

The mesh size (or size of the net holes) that a fisherman selects, depends on the size of the specie they want to capture. Small mesh sizes are used when targeting small species and large mesh sizes are used when targeting large species. The mesh size or net holes are designed to be large enough for the head of the fish to pass through it, but not its body.

As a result, when fish swim into the net they are entangled by their gills, and they drown.

Some nets stretch up to 40 miles long, in the open ocean, while other gill nets stretch for one to two miles (which is still long), and they are typically 10-50 feet in width. Fishermen may leave these nets in the water for a few hours to a couple of days.

Gill nets are designed to catch a specific size range of fish, but ultimately a range of species are entrapped by it. The nets often entangle hundreds of undersized fish that fishermen are not trying to catch, and they are rejected and thrown away, or taken to areas where they are left to rot.

The nets also frequently entangle large ocean animals, including sea turtles, seabirds, and sharks – many of which are threatened or in danger of extinction.

Admiral Johnny Borland, Commandant of the Belize Coast Guard, is calling on the Government of Belize to ban the use of gill nets in the waters of the country.

The Commandant said that this method of fishing is indiscriminate, destructive and detrimental to the fishing industry.

Amandala asked the Deputy Commandant of the Coast Guard, Commander Elton Bennett, if they are joining Oceana Belize in their fight to ban the use of gill nets in the country. He said that the Coast Guard is totally, against gill net fishing, and if Oceana has that view, then they have the same views.

Admiral Borland told reporters that in a recent incident near Monkey River, at Rocky Point, they found fishermen indiscriminately using gill nets, which resulted in a lot of species being destroyed, that were not their primary targets. He said that they also came across hundreds of dead sharks.

On February 22, the bloody images of butchered sharks went viral on social media amid a campaign launched to petition the Government of Belize to ban gill net fishing, and to furthermore, put an end to shark fishing in Belizean waters.

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