Sunday, May 8, 2011
BELIZE SPINEY LOBSTER FISHERY DEBATE GETS HOT!
THE SPINEY LOBSTER DEBATE IN BELIZE
Senior Fisheries Officer, George Myvett replied to criticisms of his bureaucratic department with a long paid ad in the Reporter newspaper. The man explained his case well and defended his department´s decisions and regulations with gusto. The main issue were an article by somebody called Judge Kenneth Gale. That writer we have all learned is a concerned person about development issues and constantly writes articles creating a furor in local circles with his criticisms. The articles are good in that they do make us take a second look at the status quo. We have also learned that Mr. Gale, does not do proper research, but writes articles based on his opinions, stating these as FACTS. It did the cockles of my heart good, to read the paid ad by our FISHERIES OFFICER George Myvett rebutting the conclusions and opinions of Mr. Gale. Between Mr. Gale and Trevor Vernon we have some opinionated persons, who write biased articles on our society and development. The latest furor is over the lobster fishery.
Mr. Gale starts stating opinions as FACTS, which is very misleading and not backed by the science. To the general public this causes a great deal of confusion. While in this current debate, Mr. Gale is saying the spiney lobster fishery is declining, our Fisheries Officer Mr. George Myvett states this is not true. He then goes on to state that our lobster tail export product is actually stable and has been for many years, a couple of decades. He then pointed out that Mr. Gale drew his flawed conclusions based on the dollar values earned by the lobster fishery, on a recent per annum comparison. THAT is very true, due to the WORLD RECESSION of three years or so, in which lobster tail prices dropped in export value. The Senior Fisheries Officer points out that the number of weight, or pounds of lobster tails stays fairly steady, making a stable self sustainable fishery under current management rules.
One of the arguments put forth by the Fisheries Officer is that MOST of the lobster tails are caught and delivered by snorkelers, using the hook, NOT by lobster trap fishermen. The divers work the reefs and grounds down to about 40 feet. At least that is what I used to do in my youth as a lobster diver. Most reefs are steep underwater inclines and at deeper levels the spiney lobster is unmolested. A sort of self regulating affair, as to catch. Lobster diver producers, make value judgements on weight through experience, by visual sight when they decide which lobsters to hook out of a crevice with a nest of them residing there. Some mistakes will be made, but on the whole it works well as a system.
When it comes to management rules, I tend to differ from the Fisheries Officer. Bureaucrats everywhere want more CONTROL and more regulations. I myself believe that the control comes from PROFIT. Either you make a paying trip, or you lose money. PROFIT is a proper system of controls, not more bureaucratic management and permit limitation rules.
When it comes to lobster trap fishing, and I have made my living at this and was a FOUNDING MEMBER of the first LOBSTER FISHING COOPERATIVE IN BELIZE during Colonial times, so there is 60 years or more of experience here. I disagree with the Senior Fishery Officer in which he states that since lobster trap fishing produces less than 25% of ALL the lobster tails produced, the current diversity of managment controls on the lobster fishery are adequate enough, as shown by the self sustainability of the lobster fishery, by pounds of lobster tails delivered each year. He may have a point, but I support the view and argument of Mr. Gale that says we can do better, with a release space at the bottom of the traps, for immature lobster. There are locations in the waters of Belize, which produce most of the Spiney Lobster juveniles. My traps to the West of the Bajo, a sand bar, a few miles West of Caye Caulker, always produced 99% small baby lobster, and only the occasional spiney lobster of legal size. Same could be said of the area around Blackadores Caye. There are other places. To me I will agree an escape space at the bottom of the trap makes a lot of sense, even if the lobster trap fisherman is only producing less than 25% of the catch. The reason the catch is not more, is most lobster fisherman in the North of the country, went into building hotels and restaurants for the tourist business, which has grown and pays better than lobster, for less work.
Still, when this subject comes up, I am mindful of my lobster traps being FULL of lobster, so heavy that it was difficult to pull them over the side of the boat. The drawback, was out of hundreds of lobster, only one, maybe two would be legal size. The space at the bottom of the trap makes a lot of sense to me as a mandatory regulation. Controls on number of fishermen are just games that bureaucrats play, in this fishery, to throw their weight around and complicate a fishery that does not need. Using expensive gasoline and the PROFIT margins, make any lobster trip self regulating.
RESEARCHERS SHOW SENIOR FISHERIES OFFICER IS LYING? Spiney lobster statistics show the lobster catch of Belize has declined from 1000 tons in the 1980´s to 600 tons in the early 2004 period. So say criticizers of Fisheries management regulations.
I’m not sure where whoever wrote the Fisheries article in this weekend’s paper got their data, but data from the Fisheries Department itself shows that the catch of lobster has declined from over 1000 metric tons per year in 1980 and 1992 to less than 600 metric tons per year in 2000 – 2004. Perhaps the author was being disingenuous by using data only since 2000.
http://www.landusepolicy.bz/Downloads/Geo_Belize_2010_lowres.pdf (this is an EXTREMELY informative document about everything from agriculture to fisheries to water to mangroves/corals, aquaculture, etc.
Also, friends of mine who used to own a restaurant in Placencia had to order lobster a couple of times from the Northern Coop when lobster wasn’t available in Placencia.
What they received was disgusting – the tails were about the size of a medium-sized shrimp.
So, whatever tonnage is being produced now obviously includes undersized lobster tails.
Posted by A Professional BEACH BUM retires in Belize! at 4:21 AM