By Jem Smith
In November 2020 under the UDP government, the use of gill nets for fishing was banned through Statutory Instrument (SI) No. 158 of 2020. It was done in a demonstration of commitment to maintain a vibrant and sustainable fishery sector by then Minister of Fisheries, Forestry, the Environment and Sustainable Development, Dr. Omar Figueroa. Fisheries Resources (Gill net prohibition) Regulations, 2020, banned the use and possession of gill nets in the marine waters of Belize and included all the sea under the jurisdiction of Belize. Signing the SI into law was a two-year-long process that saw the inclusion of numerous stakeholders, including the Coalition for Sustainable Fisheries and Oceana. After their tireless efforts and long-awaited success, the signing of the SI came as a win to many within the fishing industry and others, such as environmentalists. It did, on the other hand, bring about a problem for people who mostly relied on Gill net fishing to supply their means of living.
As a result, an application for a judicial review was submitted to the Supreme Court on this ban. It was filed by the Belize Fishermen Cooperative Association (BFCA), represented by attorney Nazira Myles, to seek a constitutional facility for reviewing legislation pertaining to the prohibition of gill nets. They asked that the Ministry of Fisheries, Forestry, Environment and Sustainable Development, now the Ministry of Blue Economy, take all necessary steps to properly research, consult and make fair regulations, if any, to allow gillnet fishing. Their application was, however, rejected since according to Justice Westmin James, the BFCA failed to advance any arguable ground for judicial review that has a realistic prospect of success. This then comes as another win for conservationists.
By Jem Smith