Trawlers in Belize. (Photo: Oceana/Xavier Pastor)
Universal trawling ban agreement signed
Thursday, April 21, 2011, 03:30 (GMT + 9)
Agreements to buy out the last two remaining trawlers as part of a government-backed scheme to end all forms of trawling in territorial waters have finally been signed.
Officials from the Northern Fishermen Cooperative Society Limited, Oceana Inc, Oceana in Belize and the Belize Bank signed the deal.
The cooperative and Oceana signed a trawler purchase/sale agreement and a security agreement plus a separate loan/grant contract with the Belize Bank.
The environmental organisation is giving the cooperative USD 800,000 - USD 650,000 for the two trawlers and USD 150,000 to go toward the Belize Bank, which held the trawlers as collateral against the cooperative’s bank debt - informed Audrey Matura-Shepherd, vice president of Oceana in Belize.
Per the agreement, USD 100,000 is for micro-loans for fishers and USD 50,000 will serve for disaster relief.
The trawling ban will cost the cooperative and its fishers about USD 750,000 a year in loss of revenues and the money coming from Oceana is meant to help compensate for that loss, reports 7News Belize.
"One of the biggest concerns was that once there was a ban, the Northern Fishermen Cooperative that owns these assets would have been left with an asset in their hands that as no value,” commented Matura-Shepherd. “So they had to look at not only the aspect of, 'Yes we want to assist with doing whatever is best for environmental issues in Belize, but we have to look at what people make their livelihoods on, and all the investments they've made.'”
Ovel Leonardo, chairman of the cooperative, said the two trawlers had not been used for three years, reports Amandala.
The original law allowing for trawling in Belize has now been repealed. While the draft statutory instrument (SI) was signed in December, the final SI was not penned until 4 February, Matura-Shepherd told.
Oceana is now accepting proposals from organisations, governments, NGO’s or any other non-profit groups that can make use of the boats outside of Belize. A review of the proposals should commence within a month, she said, and a final decision expected within six weeks.
The vice president clarified that Oceana would not invest any more money in the trawlers, but did say they appear to be in decent shape.
So far, only two other countries have instituted some form of ban on trawling: Venezuela and Palau, Oceana said.
The group will demand its money back from Belize if the country reverses the ban in the next 25 years.
Moreover, Oceana has joined a national lobby of the Belize Coalition to Save Our Natural Heritage that is working to ban offshore drilling - a ban the government has not allowed. Matura-Shepherd took care to indicate that buyout of the trawlers does not represent a precedent for oil drilling companies.
- All forms of trawling banned
By Natalia Real