Guatemala’s Fishing Trade Spells Trouble for Belize

Poaching boats leave Guatemala for Belizean waters to set gillnets for the night.

Poaching boats leave Guatemala for Belizean waters to set gillnets for the night.

An investigation into Guatemala’s thriving shark fishing industry revealed serious concerns for Belize’s fishery and its fishermen. In February 2019, a team of investigative journalists from The Reporter traveled to Livingston, Guatemala to evaluate the scope of illegal fishing for sharks, fish and other marine products in Belizean waters by Guatemalan fishermen. Their findings were alarming.

Full article here: .

Negative Impacts of Gillnets in Belize

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In recent weeks, when we hear the word “gillnet,” we tend to associate it with our fishermen, sustainable fishing and the Belize Fisheries Department. But exactly: what is gillnetting and why are we having a debate about it?  Love News traveled to Placencia where we spoke with Grayson Sierra, a Members of the Placencia Sports Fishing Association and a tour guide who provided an explanation.

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Will fishers agree to a gillnet ban?

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Recently several NGOs and the Belize Federation of Fishers (BFF) proposed that the government phase out and ban the use of gill nets in Belizean waters. While the proposed phase-out ban has been opposed by the Fisheries Department and the Belize Fisherman’s Cooperative Association (BFCA), BFF continues to lobby for a phase-out ban.

In speaking with the BFF about its support for the ban, Nigel Martinez, Director of the BFF stated that he realizes that fishermen who agree to put down their gillnets must be given opportunities for other livelihoods. To this end, the BFF has been working on possible alternatives for gillnet fishers who agree to consider more sustainable forms of fishing. 

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Richard Branson Condemns Gillnets

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Investor, philanthropist, and founder of the Virgin Group Richard Branson has stated that more needs to be done to protect the ocean and its marine life.

In a recent trip to Belize, in Central America, the tycoon met with the nation’s prime minister Dean Barrow to discuss strategies for ocean protection, according to a blog post by Branson.

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Coalition Lobbies Against the use of Gill Nets

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The Belize Coalition for Sustainable Fishery is the umbrella organization for the Turneffe Atoll Trust, Oceana Belize, the Belize Federation of Fishers, the Belize Game Fish Association, the National Sports Fishing Association, and the Mar Alliance. All these fishing-related organizations have organized to lobby the government of Belize to outlaw one very specific fishing gear, which is gill nets. Love News went to a marine reserve with representatives of the coalition to make a case against gill net use.

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Are We Drowning Our Future

Oceana Social Media Project Portrays Indiscriminate Nature of Gillnets - As part of ongoing advocacy efforts to promote the use of sustainable fishing gear in Belize’s marine environment, Oceana launched a social media component in the ARE WE DROWNING OUR FUTURE? | #stopthenets campaign. The photographs feature Belizean social media personalities and are designed to highlight the indiscriminate nature of gillnetting at sea.

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Impact of Gillnets on Sharks

Dr. Rachel Graham has extensively studied shark and ray populations in Belize.

Dr. Rachel Graham has extensively studied shark and ray populations in Belize.

Sharks are a major target of gillnetting with shark fins representing the major cash crop. In 2007, Dr. Rachel Graham, Ph.D. estimated that 1.7 million pounds of shark meat and 16,000 pounds of shark fins were illegally taken from Belizean waters annually and sold in Guatemala.

Read Dr. Graham’s 2007 report here: .