Monday, June 17, 2024

Oceana Belize releases first fisheries audit; more monitoring and enforcement needed

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On Thursday, March 10th, Oceana Belize released its first annual Fishery Audit to show the status of important fisheries in the country. The report also evaluated the effectiveness of management measures already in place. The audit identified that despite significant government commitments and investments, limited monitoring and collection of fisheries data continues to undermine the effective management of Belize’s fish stocks and marine products.

According to the audit, there is no public, nationwide system for the ongoing collection of landings data, nor regular monitoring of catch composition by species and fish size. Although the Managed Access Program requires all these, it is not followed. The only stock that has its landings monitored is the Queen Conch.

The Oceana audit noted that information was lacking for most of the 54 commercially fished marine stocks in Belize. The data showed that 96% of these have unknown overfished status, and 98% have unknown overfishing status. Without monitoring, some are heavily exploited or possibly overexploited; however, such information is unavailable.

Despite these results, Vice President at Oceana Belize, Janelle Chanona, is optimistic looking forward to future audits. “I am very hopeful for a couple of reasons that the pendulum will swing a lot further to the right,” she said. “We have some low figures for this first audit, but as this tool becomes the usefulness to the media, students, the scientific community, to governance partners that it will grow.” Chanona is confident that there will be more significant numbers in terms of double digits for the next audit, if not high double digits.

The audit presentation stressed that this project is critical, and it goes a long way in supporting the livelihoods of Belizean fishers. The initiative aims to make sure opportunities are there for everyone depending on marine resources. The need to change the trajectory of country-scale fisheries management performance and the health of wild fish populations is more urgent than ever. Oceana believes that improved management in fisheries will also increase the economic value it contributes to the national economy.

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