An update on the end of bottom trawling in Belize
What have former US President Bill Clinton, actor Ted Danson, entertainers Justin Bieber and Lady Gaga done for Belize lately?
Quite a bit, actually…they all contributed to a recent Christie’s Green Auction that raised over US $1.5 million to benefit four international environmental organizations including Oceana, which has been instrumental in assisting Belize to completely ban the destructive practice of trawling from its waters.
The gala April auction by Christie’s, one of the world’s leading auction houses since 1766, supported Oceana as well as Conservation International, the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and The Central Park Conservancy through auctions of various lots including a Hollywood experience during the Oscars, a day shadowing former President Bill Clinton, a trip to Tokyo to meet Justin Bieber, a tennis lesson with John McEnroe and a trip to Miami to meet Lady Gaga.
In what was described as one of the most dramatic moments of the evening, prominent New York lawyer, author and environmentalist Sir Thomas Moore made a donation of $100,000 specifically to help Oceana’s effort to completely end all forms of trawling in Belize. The generous donation by Moore was part of a “Paddle Raise,” lot in which guests at the Green Auction raised a total of $350,000 for Oceana’s work in Belize.
The Government of Belize officially banned all forms of trawling from its Caribbean seas and inland waters and rivers last December, and the statutory instrument outlawing the practice went into effect February 2011. The SI sets out that “No person shall engage in any form of trawling in the (a) internal waters, (b) territorial sea, [and] (c) exclusive economic zone.”
The ban will go a long way towards protecting Belize’s Barrier Reef, also known as the Mesoamerican Coral Reef, a UNESCO world Heritage Site and the largest reef system in the western hemisphere.
In enacting the legislation, Belize joins Venezuela and Palau as the first three nations to take this important environmental initiative.
This latest support from Oceana involves purchasing the last two Belizean trawling vessels as well as establishing a fund for micro loans for fishermen and a reserve fund for disaster relief.
Oceana is giving $800,000 to the Northern Fishermen Cooperative — $650,000 to purchase the two trawlers and $150,000 to be retained by the Belize Bank, according to Audrey Matura-Shepherd, vice president of Oceana in Belize.
Under an agreement signed by Oceana and Belize’s Northern Fishermen Cooperative, $100,000 of the Belize Bank account will be held for micro-loans for fishers, and $50,000 for disaster relief.
Lucy Fleming, co- founder and GM of The Lodge at Chaa Creek, Belize’s prominent eco resort and home to the Natural History Centre, applauded the finalisation of the ban and the financial support.
“What is so heartening about this victory is that it represents an effective collaboration between local environmentalists, international organisations and philanthropists that achieved significant results.
“This is truly a model for how small developing countries like Belize can partner with global colleagues to ensure sustainable practices that encourage development while protecting our precious natural resources and our common natural heritage worldwide.
“It really is a victory for common sense, best practices and international cooperation, and we are grateful to everyone involved,” Ms Fleming said.