I had hoped that in the time between my last message and this one, there would be a little more certainty and a lot less craziness happening in the world. Instead, Covid-19 cases are twenty-fold what they were a month ago and the last thing we need is a hurricane to make things even worse medically, mentally and monetarily. The gravity of just how different everything everywhere is—and will continue to be—is still sinking in.
Thank goodness hope floats. Just a couple weeks ago, we were buoyed by a major milestone on a long-standing goal. After more than a decade (!) of campaigning, on August 20th, 2020, a joint agreement executed between the Government of Belize, Oceana and the Coalition for Sustainable Fisheries, will implement the legislative and regulatory changes necessary to provide for the prohibition of gillnets as a form of legal fishing gear. Once enacted, the ban will make Belizean waters completely protected from gillnets, bottom trawling and offshore oil activities. This is a historic moment for Belize, her people, the Caribbean Sea and most importantly, for everyone who depends on the country’s marine resources for their livelihoods.
This achievement would not have been possible without you. The commitment of Oceana’s Wavemakers, supporters and donors have been essential in getting to this point. Thank you. Our collective perseverance on this issue is testament to the strength of our determination to stop an inherently destructive gear from harming fisheries and fishing-based livelihoods, all the while supporting Belizean fishers to alternate means of fishing and sustainability.
A couple key points to note in terms of next steps: the agreement reiterates the conditions and timelines for a successful phase-out and livelihoods transition, that would conclude in a ban to be instituted throughout Belize’s maritime waters by January 2022, at the latest or earlier when the livelihoods transition of fishers is successfully attained. The agreement also sets the framework to determine the eligibility of gill net fishers for the livelihoods transition programme and direct financial support sponsored by the Coalition and Oceana respectively, which includes those gill net fishers licensed in 2018 who presently meet the legal requirements as stated in SI 81 of 2019. Those legal requirements are that only Belizean citizens who have been resident in Belize for the past six (6) months, and who sell their fisheries products only in Belize, will be eligible for the livelihoods transition programme and direct financial support.
There is a lot to get done in the next couple months. And inevitably, 2020 will bring more facepalming, “what the heck” moments to the table. But if we’ve learnt anything in the last six months, it’s that human spirit is resilient even though change is the only constant. Together we will face the storms yet to appear on the horizon. Together we will celebrate the moments we can. And together, we will continue to love and protect our beautiful Belize.
Read more in our September 2020 E-Newsletter here.