TIDE’s Programme Manager, Joe Villafranco, visited Maine in USA, with three fishermen from Toledo Belize to meet with and accompany individual lobster fishers and fishing organisations who have been involved in successful fisheries management for the past 30 years.
During the trip to Maine, the main objectives of the visit were to witness stewardship in action by accompanying fishers on fishing trips to in order to see how the organizations in Maine are structured. By speaking to the fishers involved, the fishermen from Toledo (one from Punta Gorda, one from Monkey River and one originally from Punta Negra) were able learn about the history of the lobster fishery and how fishers’ actions shaped the area in to what it is today.
On their return to Toledo, the three fishers realized that our fisheries in Belize are currently where Maine fisheries used to be 50 years ago when there was no stewardship of the resources. Maine fishers crashed their cod populations and it has never returned since; they were close to crashing the lobster fishery when they realized that if they don’t take care of their resources themselves, no one will.
They used to harvest 2-5 million pounds of lobster per season 30 years ago; today they are harvesting 120 million pounds and there is still a high abundance of lobsters in the water. There is a minimum and a maximum size limit that all the fishers adhered to without enforcement officers around. Fishers on the visit witnessed the lobster fisher throwing back two thirds of his catch because they were either undersized or too immature. There was no need for the state or any other agency to enforce the fishing regulations; it was a case of self-regulation. Adult lobsters have higher fecundity so they are left in the water to reproduce.
Fishers from Belize realized that the fishers in Maine are highly organized and had the power to make recommendations to the state for fishing regulations. When thinking about Belize, they realized there is a serious lack of organized groups of fishers. Due to this, there are many internal issues among fishing groups that are preventing the Belize fishery organisations from functioning effectively.
The Belizean fishers pledged to come back to Toledo and lead their individual fishing groups to better organize themselves. They recommend that TIDE invite two fishers from Maine to Port Honduras Marine Reserve (PHMR) to speak with the fishermen here in the hopes of inspiring them as a whole to become organized.
There was no need for the state or any other agency to enforce the fishing regulations; it was a case of self-regulation.
The Belizean fishers pledged to come back to Toledo and lead their individual fishing groups to better organize themselves.