In the past few weeks there has been a lot of concern about BelizeÂs fishing industry after the European Union (EU) blacklisted the nation because of its seeming tolerance of illegal international fishing. Â In response, the Belizean government has said that theyÂll be doing everything they can to remove the blacklist and ensure that fisheries abide with the law. Â Now, it seems that the Belize Fisheries Department is taking steps to enforce gill net registrations too.
For the fishermen living in Belize, the government has been quick to assure local workers that they will not be affected. Â However, itÂs still important that fishermen abide by the nationÂs regulations. Â On December 7th, a fisherman was found using a gill net that hadnÂt been registered and was reported to the Hol Chan Marine Reserve. Â The new fishing regulations make it mandatory for all gill nets to be registered, and having visited the site for inspection, officers from the Hol Chan Marine Reserve gave the man a warning and strict instructions to register the net immediately.
It may be that some fishermen in Belize are still not aware of the new policy. Â On July 1st, 2013, the Belize Fisheries Department made it a legal requirement for all gill nets to be registered, regardless of whether theyÂre being used for profit or nonprofit work. Â The goal of the registration law is to ensure that particular species of fish are protected and that sensible fishing practices are observed. Â Upon registration of a gill net, owners are given an ownership certificate and a net is labeled and tagged. Â A fine of $500 or even six months imprisonment can be imposed for illegal use of nets. Â While the Fisheries Departments had an open registrations drive between May and June this year, the turnout was low, resulting in many people across the country still acting outside the law.
For those who might be using gill nets and who have not yet registered them, itÂs vital to do so. Â Nets cannot exceed 200 meters for freshwater fishing, and 300 meters in open water. Â Gill nets also canÂt be used along the Placencia or Monkey River shorelines, nor can they be used in New River Lagoon. Â It is important for fishermen to take time to understand the regulations so that fines and possible jail time can be avoided.