BELIZE CITY, Thurs. Dec. 6, 2018– The issue of whether or not to ban gillnets has been one that has been hotly debated, especially recently. Oceana, as well as the Belize Federation of Fishers (BFF), have been advocates for the banning of the nets in the name of sustainability. The Belize Fishermen Cooperative Association (BFCA) says “no” to banning, however, and they are the premier representatives of the country’s fishermen.
The argument for banning gillnets is that it hinders more than it helps, because oftentimes non-target fishes and endangered sea life, such as manatees, get caught up in the nets. Also, it has been reported that many people who use gillnets use them in reserves and other areas in which fishing is not permitted.
The BFCA, though, does not believe that gillnets are causing any harm. Sidney Fuller, the executive director of BFCA, said in an interview with News5, that they are the “legal body” that represents the fishers and that they work in collaboration with the Fisheries Department. He said that, on behalf of BFCA, they believe that, after consulting with the fishermen of Belize, the banning of gillnets would be “unfair” to the fishermen and to the Fisheries Department.
Fuller said that the regulations they have in place are sufficient, and they allow the users of gillnets to fish in a sustainable manner. According to him, “people benefit from it because when it targets species like mackerel and others, which is mainly what they use gillnets for, for a poor family, a mackerel… can be cut in several slices.”
The chairman of BFCA, Daniel Dawson, shared the same sentiments when he said that the small gillnets are not doing nearly as much harm as the “power boats,” since those are the ones killing the big animals such as the manatees. “They are the ones that are very destructive,” he said. “These small nets on the coast of Belize are not harmful to that extent,” he remarked.