Who are the gillnetters?

A relatively small number of licensed Belizean fishermen use gillnets. Of more than 2,500 licensed fishermen in Belize, only 83 are currently licensed as gillnet fishermen. In addition to these licensed gillnetters, there are undoubtedly some illegal Belizean gillnetters. However, the major concern is an incursion of illegal gillnet fishermen from Guatemala and possibly Honduras.

These foreign poachers visit Belizean waters—including protected marine reserves—on a nightly basis to collect their plunder. In the process, they are devastating Belize’s marine resources. Foreign boats with gillnets of one mile long are very capable of eliminating all marine life within their reach. More information on this dire situation can be found here.

Boats leaving Guatemala for Belize. Documented in April 2019.

Boats leaving Guatemala for Belize. Documented in April 2019.

Vats of Belizean sharks and fish. Documented in Livingston, Guatemala in April 2019.

Vats of Belizean sharks and fish. Documented in Livingston, Guatemala in April 2019.

Gillnets are the fishing gear of choice for illegal fishing and countering the invasion by Belize’s neighbors is difficult since resources are limited. The Belize Coast Guard supports a gillnet ban which will significantly enhance their enforcement capabilities.

It’s important to note that commercial fishermen in Belize overwhelmingly support a gillnet ban. Recognizing that fish stocks are declining, they are concerned about the future of their fishery, their livelihood, and their ability to support their families. The largest organization of commercial fishermen in Belize, the Belize Federation of Fishers, is an active and critical member of the Coalition for Sustainable Fisheries in supporting the gillnet ban.