Unreported and unregulated fishing envisioned by 2019
NEW YORK CITY, Mon. June 5, 2017–Dr. Omar Figueroa, Belize’s Minister of State who holds the portfolio for Fisheries, announced at a side event held today at the UN Oceans Conference being convened in New York, USA, to highlight Belize’s trailblazing open access fisheries program, that the country is also working towards developing and implementing a national and sub-regional (Belize, Honduras and Guatemala) strategy and plan by 2019 to effectively combat illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing—a scourge that bilks countries around the globe of tens of billions of dollars in revenues.
“Our work has only just begun,” said Figueroa, in speaking of the steps Belize has taken towards overcoming the challenges it still faces.
“We need to combat illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing and encroachment into our marine protected areas and illegal fishers from neighboring countries; managing increasing pressure on resources without disenfranchising vulnerable populations, [and] adapting to climate change…” said Figueroa.
He said that Belize was taking the opportunity at the UN Oceans Conference to state its voluntary commitments to achieving sustainable development goal number 14: to “conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development.”
Belize pledges to improve its legislative framework for the sustainable management of its fisheries, and adopt a new, comprehensive fisheries act by 2018, when it also hopes to adopt a national fisheries policy, he elaborated.
“We need to combat illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing and encroachment into our marine protected areas and illegal fishers from neighboring countries…” Dr. Figueroa says at UN Oceans Conference today.
The Minister of State also said that Belize intends to amend the coastal zone management act and legislation by 2019.
Further initiatives include the development of fishery management plans for all major commercial species by 2018, and the expansion of no-take zones from 3% to 20% of territorial waters by 2020.
Belize is also considering implementing catch limits for certain species and developing new fisheries products.
Registered in Belize are roughly 2,600 commercial fishers who now participate in the open access fisheries regime, a unique regime implemented last year.
Figueroa said that Belize is the only place in the world to have achieved this kind of system, which he hopes can serve as a model for other countries.
According to the Minister of State, the fisheries sector is Belize’s 4th primary income earner and contributes 4% of the country’s GDP.