the country of belize
Belize is the smallest country in Central America both in physical size (8,867 square miles) and population (Roughly 380,000). Belize’s economy is largely dependent on tourism, and particularly marine based tourism. It’s coast (roughly 240 miles long), is home to the the largest reef system in our hemisphere (the Meso-American Reef) which includes three of this hemispheres four coral Atolls. Belize is the only Central American country that doesn’t connect to the Pacific Ocean.
In 2018 tourism accounted for 45% of the countries GDP and nearly 70% of its jobs.
Belize’s tourism is heavily dependent upon a healthy marine environment with approximately 70% of tourists visiting marine locations.
If gillnetting continues, the decline in fish populations continues. The reef system will deteriorate and tourism will falter, effectively halting Belize’s economy.
Small scale, artisanal, commercial fishing is an essential part Belize’s culture. There are currently 2,513 licensed commercial fisherman in Belize and only 83 licensed gillnet fishers.
The Coalition for Sustainable Fisheries, which includes the largest organization of commercial fishermen in the country, supports a healthy and sustainable commercial fishery. This requires the elimination of unsustainable fishing methods such as gillnetting.
Only 3% of the total licensed commercial fishermen in Belize utilize gillnets as a method of fishing. Our research indicates that most use gillnets only part-time.
Most commercial fishermen support a gillnet ban because 3% of the commercial fishing population threatens the livelihoods of the other 97%.
Less than .02% of the country’s total population threatens the entirety of Belize’s economy and way of life.
The majority of gillnetters in Belize utilize their nets intermittently throughout the year. Their fishing income is generated by a variety of commercial fishing activities, including lobster and conch fishing, and most do not rely solely on gillnets. The Coalition for Sustainable Fisheries feels it is important that these fishermen have opportunities to transition to more sustainable fishing methods to support their family. Belize’s gravest gillnet problem comes from illegal Guatemalan poachers.
sportfishing and Big game fishing
Sportfish and big game fish are directly threatened by gillnets while studies document that three sportfishing species (bonefish, permit and tarpon) alone generate more than $55 million USD to the Belizean economy annually.
Best estimates are that gillnetting provide less than $2 million USD annually to Belize’s economy.
Jobs & Wages
Tourism provides roughly 20,186 jobs throughout Belize, and this number is predicted to rise to 90,000 by 2028.
The sportfishing industry, alone, provides approximately 3,000 Belizean jobs and generates roughly $17.3 million USD in annual wages. Commercial fishing provides an additional 2500 jobs. All tourism and commercial fishing jobs are threatened by gillnetting.
Gillnets are the fishing gear of choice for illegal fishing and most gillnets are set at night. With limited enforcement resources, these realities make enforcement of illegal gillnet fishing nearly impossible. Enforcement authorities, including the Belize Coast Guard, support a gillnet ban recognizing that a complete ban is needed to allow proper enforcement.
why ban gillnets
Gillnet fishing threatens Belize’s commercial fishery, it’s sport fishing and the entire tourism industry. As a result, these nets threaten the viability of Belize’s entire economy.
Banning gillnets will be a major step forward in protecting Belize’s marine environment for future generations.