By Jem Smith
There is some good news for conservationists: it is now prohibited to fish for sharks within two nautical miles of the Lighthouse Reef, Glover’s Reef and Turneffe Atoll. This ban follows new regulations approved by the Government of Belize through the Ministry of Blue Economy and Civil Aviation. The long-standing collective recommendations were given to the Ministry by the National Shark Working Group, a team of government, fisherfolk, NGO and research professionals looking to establish a safe corridor and conservation measures for sharks and rays across 1,500 square miles.
These animals now go on to join the list of other species already protected within Belize including the jaguar, specifically in the protected Cockscomb Basin. This now largely becomes a great feat toward conservation of wildlife but will require different and guided research. Dr. Demian Chapman, Director of the Sharks and Rays Conservation Program, says that they will be depending greatly on fishers on their knowledge of the animals’ locations and how they can be safely caught. This will be combined with their specific research and techniques to catch these animals. After being caught, scientists will place a device into the sharks’ fins through which they can be tracked. The long term goal of this initiative will be to establish conservation management of sharks in Belize with a view to fulfill the country’s fisheries commitments.
Current stakeholders look forward to GOB expanding the inclusion of other stakeholders in consultations for the drafting of legislation and associated regulations to improve effective management and enforcement of shark and ray conservation measures.
By Jem Smith