By Alexis R. Milan Staff Reporter
Oceana has reached out to the Government of Belize to assist in removing Belize from the European Union’s (EU) blacklist for not acting promptly against illegal fishing.
Oceana Vice President for Belize Janelle Chanona told The Reporter that Oceana stands ready to assist the government by facilitating the dialogue between GOB and key EU figures through its international contacts.
Chanona reported that the response from the government has been positive and receptive and both parties are committed to removing Belize from the blacklist.
Chanona explained that the nationalization of the International Merchant Marine Registry (IMMARBE) was a big step in indicating that Belize is serious about stopping illegal high seas fishing. But more, obviously, remains to be done.
On Tuesday the government, via press release, stated that it believed the decision by the EU Council was unjustified because Belize has taken all necessary steps required by the E.U’s Directorate of Maritime Affairs and Fisheries to eradicate Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) fishing.
GOB argued that the EU Council based its decision on outdated information and has not taken into account the measures Belize has adopted within the last six months to strengthen its high seas fishing regime.
GOB reminded that in October 2013, Belize enacted a new High Seas Fishing Act which came into effect on November 8, 2013, and this Act was supplemented by the Sanctions Regulations and the Licensing Regulations, both of which came into force on March 12, 2014.
According to the government release, these regulations prescribe stringent penalties for violations of this Act and would make the High Seas Fishing Act fully operational – a key demand of the EU.
In addition, Belize has signed a contract with a South African Company, Capricorn Fisheries Monitoring, to provide On Sea Observer services for Belize flagged vessels, at a cost of about US$200,000 for the first year. This program takes effect from April 1, 2014.
GOB also stated that they would work closely with the Directorate of Maritime Affairs and Fisheries to implement other measures.
Director of the Belize Federation of Fishers, Nigel Martinez also told The Reporter that its Executive Management Committee has called an emergency meeting for Friday in Belize City to discuss the possible impact the ban could have on their members.