By any measure, the world-class sport fishery in the waters of Belize has for years been known for its quality and consistency. That fishery contributes in no small way to the country's vital tourism industry. But now, foreign fishing fleets pose an increasing problem looming on the horizon for Belize, according to Chris Harris, who, with his wife, Sue, run the country's Steppingstones Resort.
Late last year, Jamaican fishing vessels showed up off Punta Gorda, says Andy Sharpless of Oceana. He notes that these boats are larger, more sophisticated and better equipped than the generally smaller artisanal Belizean fishing boats. Similarly, says Harris, Guatemalans have been harvesting the country's resources. Of course none the benefits accrue to Belize. Sharpless says countries with much larger fleets, notably Taiwan and Spain ("Europe's largest and most aggressive fishing nation), are attempting to secure the Belize government's permission to fish waters beyond the vast barrier reef.
Currently such fishing is prohibited but not necessarily prevented. That requires enforcement, which Harris says is minimal at best. The country, he adds, desperately needs more patrol vessels and trainer officers, since the lack of enforcement is the biggest single concern right now.
Harris says anyone can easily help their effort to protect Belize's fish by signing a petition online, at http://www.thepetitionsite.com/1/exploitation-of-belize-marine-resources-and-fishery. Anyone who wants to do more can send emails of concern to the minister of fisheries, the Hon. Rene Montera, at email@example.com; the coastal zone management authority in Belize City, at firstname.lastname@example.org; and to the Minister of Tourism's CEO, Michael Singh, at email@example.com.