Tuesday, November 14, 2017. Members of the conservation community are expressing outrage over pictures circulating on social media of fishermen posing with harvested endangered sharks, including hammerheads, tiger shark and nurse shark.
According to Mar Alliance, the sharks depicted in the photos are protected in Belize and it is believed that they were recently fished, and reportedly “landed” on a caye in Belize’s southern waters.
In a statement posted online, Mar Alliance asks “is this the image of a progressive and marine life and tourism-friendly Belize that we wish to project to the world?” Oceana-Belize also posted a statement on its social media page explaining that the issue is “not about the fishermen” but highlighted that there is a “lack of transparency” which has exposed Belize’s natural resources to exploitation.
Oceana-Belize says that the names and photos of everyone licensed to fish in Belize should be made public so that we can all know who is accessing our marine resources.
The Oceana-Belize statement says “when sharks are gone, the entire ecosystem is thrown out of balance.”
The organization also states that this is not good for anyone as more than fifteen thousand Belizeans depend on fishing for their livelihood and therefore they will be among the fist to feel the impact.
“Two dead hammerheads and a nurse are also pictured. How did the nurse shark die? That is a “protected” species. Did it drown in a net? Is that why it was brought to shore; as by-catch? If it was targeted that would be a clear breach of the law,” says Oceana-Belize.
Mar Alliance says that “any transport of hammerheads across borders to Guatemala (which is where the meat and fins go) is illegal as it contravenes the Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species of Fauna and Flora (CITES) for which there is no completed assessment yet of the sustainability of hammerhead fisheries in Belize.”
The organization ends its online statement by saying that “Belize could truly become the shark and coral reef diving destination of the #Caribbean IF Belize would conserve its sharks…that are also key to maintaining coral reef and fin-fish fisheries health. Let’s be proactive and progressive.”