The Placencia Producers Cooperative Society Limited sealed a $1.00 sales agreement with Oceana Belize for a fishing trawler, the Northern 11, at its headquarters on Saturday, May 25.
The Co-op is planning to use the trawler, originally designed for deep sea fishing, to boost its burgeoning sea weed project, its Chairman Carlos Santos, who gave the welcome remarks, revealed.
Santos said that the cooperative, which was formed by 15 fishermen in 1962, has seen a dwindling of its membership, many of whom have switched from fishing to tourism.
A new committee has been looking at ways to diversify the work of the Co-op, Santos said. In 2005, they began to learn from some St. Lucian fishermen how to plant seaweed on ropes.
Initially, the Coop had asked Oceana for the nets from the trawler to plant the seaweed. Marine biologist Lisa Crane submitted a proposal to Oceana, asking at first for the nets, but Crane soon followed up with another proposal, asking for the trawler also.
Vice President of Oceana Belize, Audrey Matura-Shepherd, revealed that it has been an arduous process, “but we have finally reached agreement in principle with the Placencia Producers Cooperative Society Limited to transfer this asset which will allow them to take their Seaweed Project to a new level.”
Matura-Shepherd said that Oceana had received many proposal for the trawler, which was constructed in 1971 by Marine Mart Inc of Port Isabel, Texas, but it decided to give it to the Coop, because of the project’s innovative approach of not taking from the environment, but doing something that is both sustainable and community based.
“Oceana wants to impact the lives of community,” Shepherd said.
The Northern Two, which is in need of some repairs, is one of the last two fishing trawlers that Oceana brought for $800,000, with money raised from donations, in its fight against bottom trawling in Belizean waters.
Oceana donated the first trawler to the Belize Coastal Management Authority and Institute.
The steel hull Northern II is powered by three KT19 Cummins engines.
In its glory days, when its net dragged fish from the sea floor, it had a top speed of 11. knots.
Today, the 103 ton vessel will be employed by the Coop in a mostly stationary function: to serve the Coop members at their seaweed-growing sites.
Trawl fishing is banned from Belizean waters, because of the damaging effect of its large nets on the seabed and the delicate balance of the marine ecosystem.
Oceana was instrumental in leading the lobby that got government to pass a Statutory Instrument to ban trawl fishing from all Belizean waters in February 2011.