Mar Alliance expresses concern over overfishing of sharks in Belize Print E-mail
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Thursday, 25 February 2016 00:00

A shark conservation NGO, Mar Alliance this week posted pictures on Facebook raising an alarm over a large number of sharks which were being processed for meat near the Blue Hole and Half Moon Caye. The pictures posted show fisher folk cleaning 3 shark species including hammerhead and Caribbean Reef sharks at the Sandbore Caye and Hat Caye Lighthouse. According to the post there were at least 50 sharks landed at the sites.

In Belize it is not illegal to fish for these marine animals however Oceana Belize’s Vice President, Janelle Chanona has expressed concern over the quantity of sharks which were being processed and the possibility that longlines and gill nets may have been used in capturing the sharks.

According to Mar Alliance “little to none of the shark meat is consumed in Belize (it’s full of neurotoxic mercury) as it’s traditionally exported to Guatemala. And Hammerheads (meat and or fins) cannot be legally exported across national boundaries without a specific export license that is ultimately approved by the Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES). This international convention, to which Belize is a signatory, notes that countries wanting to export listed species (such as the hammerheads and even conch - both listed under the Appendix II) must prove internationally through a process called a non-detriment finding prepared with Belize’s independent Scientific Authority, that the fishery for the listed species is sustainable. However, fisheries for large long-lived, late maturing and low production sharks including hammerheads and Caribbean reef sharks are recognized worldwide as unsustainable. This means they should NOT be fished.”

In its post Mar Alliance notes that “these sharks were a mainstay of dive and snorkel tourism at the atoll and helped to support many local businesses that rely on tourism for their income. These dead sharks represented millions of dollars in lost revenue, not only to Belize’s tourism sector and the many families and politicians they support, but also to coral reef ecosystem resilience, as these animals play a critical role in maintaining reef health.”

The organization has now started a campaign to support sustainable fishing in Belize and to discontinue the use of nets and longlines in fishing.