The purpose of this letter is to demonstrate that the ban on trawlers was good for Belize, just as the ban on gill nets will be good for Belize in the long term, and that local fishers need to be recognized and rewarded for their significant contribution towards achieving these goals.
Before trawlers got banned in Belize, there was a severe lack of fish, especially large snappers. The people who lived along the coast were concerned about the amount of snappers that used to wash up on the beach, as well as the turtles due to the high bycatch from the trawlers.
Before the trawlers were in Belize, the local fisherman would catch big silk snappers along the shore, but as a result of the trawlers, the big snappers were gone. The trawlers also damaged a lot of precious coral due to their nets catching on the reef and destroying it.
When the trawlers were banned in 2010, the fish had a chance to recover and a lot of the people along the coast were so happy, because the snappers started to come back and from that, it is clear that it was because the trawlers were banned.
The local Belizean fisherfolk were instrumental in getting the trawlers banned and should be officially recognized for their contributions. The fishers should be recognized and their names published and they should be featured on television and radio for their contributions to stopping the trawling, to inform the NGOs of the importance of their contributions.
We now face a similar situation with the gill nets, and once again, the fisherfolk themselves are working tirelessly on the ground to ensure that gill nets are banned, because they damage the environment. They have attended many meetings and advocated both with the government and on the ground, with those that were against it, and reasoned with them extensively.
As a result of the work of the fishers alongside the NGOs and government, it is expected that the gill net ban will pass. It is very important to recognize the fishers for their contribution to that goal officially.
For many years, there has been a public perception that the fishers are not environmentally oriented or engaging in sustainable practices, and it is important to change that perception by officially recognizing the fishers for their contributions and providing appropriate rewards.
Many fishers sacrifice a lot of time and energy with no pay or travel fees or salary being paid to them to accomplish the goals set forth by the government and the NGOs, and it would be impossible to accomplish those goals without the support of the fishers.
Marine produce is a general concern to a number of fishers due to the fact that we see how much the marine produce is affecting our life. In the past, marine products had helped us support our family; now, it’s much more difficult to provide for them. We are concerned because of how much it affects our family, even in the future, and to understand that it’ll affect the tourism industry.
Marine produce is being overfished for 365 days of the year by people who don’t even live in Belize. They don’t respect the laws of our seasons, and not only that; they’re also taking our corals.
As fishers in Belize, the law states that you can only have three nets per person to minimize the quantity of overfishing, but licensed fishermen cannot survive off a hundred meters of net, hence, fishermen with licenses are still using more than three nets, fully knowing that fishers living out of Belize are using ten to fifteen nets per boat, with two hundred meters of nets.
The ministers and general public should be a part of this movement, for overfishing is the greatest threat in Belize, and it’s rapidly decreasing the availability of marine produce.
Alberto Faux, past gillnetter