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Caribbean Fisherfolk Month kicks off at Memorial Park Print E-mail
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Thursday, 07 June 2018 00:00

Although there are only around 2,700 registered fisher folk in the country, the fishing sector provides jobs for so many more. According to Mike Heusner, Vice President, Belize Audubon Society, the community of fisher folk alone contributes around 3% - 4% of Belize’s gross domestic product (GDP); yet, they are too often uncelebrated. That is why for the fourth year, the month of June is dedicated to them.

The launch of the Caribbean Fisherfolk Month was held at the Memorial Park on Friday, June 1, 2018. The initiative, held through the collaboration of the Wildlife Conservation Society, the Belize Fisheries Department, and the Caribbean Fisheries Mechanism, exists to open the month of celebrating the hard work of fisher folk in Belize as well as their significant contribution to the economy.

This year’s celebration is being held under the theme “Working towards Zero Hunger with Sustainable Small Scale Fisheries.” Ralna Lewis, Assistant Country Director, WCS, spoke of the SDGs and how the eradication of poverty and hunger work hand in hand with attaining those goals. “If you notice the theme for this year’s event is Working towards Zero Hunger with Sustainable Small Scale Fisheries and that just highlights the fact that fishing and the fisheries sector is important to Belize’s Economy, our society. I mean especially to our local coastal communities, it constitutes a large portion of the diet of what people consume; and eradicating hunger, eradicating poverty are all sustainable development goals that as a country should be working towards.”

And while these SDGs can be achieved, it requires a committed body of government organizations as well as NGOs to ensure fishing is done sustainably. Also pertinent is the enforcement of necessary regulations and the manpower to do so. Lewis elaborated that “You can have all of these management tools but you need enforcement in place and that requires resources; financial resources and human resources, obviously. So, that is one of the core things when it comes to ensuring that these management tools provide benefits to people. You need to have that enforcement in place so that you can identify that these things are working and this is what I am reaping by abiding by these regulations.”

At the launch, there were a number of interactive displays including the WCS, the Southern Environmental Association (SEA), the Turneffe Atoll Sustainability Association (TASA), the Belize Fisheries and Forestry departments, Belize Agricultural Health Authority (BAHA), and the Belize Coast Guard. Besides the launch, the WCS will recognize a Fisher of the Year, as well as host a number of educational sessions, forums, and outreach activities across the fishing communities in Belize.