Alternative Livelihood pilot project

The effort to ban gillnets is supported by a large majority of Belize’s commercial fishermen who have seen their fishing resources decline. Several gillnet fishermen have informed the Coalition that they are willing to give up their nets if an alternative livelihood is available. The Coalition for Sustainable Fisheries is working with the Belize Federation of Fisherman (BFF) to develop programs for transitioning gillnetters to more sustainable fishing methods.

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A pilot program to train gillnet fishermen in sustainable shrimp trapping is underway. To be clear, this is not industrial shrimp trawling nor polluting shrimp aquaculture. This is the use of small traps—similar to lobster traps—operated by fishermen in a sustainable manner. In Spring 2019 fishermen from Maine experienced with sustainable methods were brought to Belize for a cross-cultural educational program in which they showed Belizean fisherman how to run species-specific traps. In June of 2019, the Belizean fisherman who participated in the educational program visited Maine to receive additional training.

In 2008, shrimp trawling (the major shrimp industry in Belize) was outlawed due to the disastrous impacts of the practice on reef systems. This method of harvesting shrimp does not destroy the sea floor as trawlers do nor does it contaminate ocean waters as is often the case with shrimp aquaculture.

Other alternatives, including tourism training, are also being developed.

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future alternative livelihood programs

Organizations of fishermen, such as The Belize Federation of Fishers (BFF), will be actively involved in recommending and instituting alternatives that are desirable and feasible for gillnet fishermen.

Details of alternative livelihood programs have not been fully formulated pending passage of ban, determination of the exact number of gillnet fishermen to be retrained and the funding available. Programs will include transitioning gillnet fishermen to other more sustainable fishing methods and other areas of employment, including tourism. Most fishing guides in Belize, for instance, started as commercial fishermen.

Funds may also be used for collecting, destroying or re-purposing nets in an environmentally friendly manner. In some cases, particularly with older gillnet fishers who do not wish to be retrained, direct compensation will be considered. The Coalition is in the process of forming an official non-governmental organization (NGO) in Belize for overseeing this process.