A recent shark fishing incident in Belize has conservation bodies and marine lovers outraged.
When two fishermen posted pictures of themselves celebrating their catch some days ago, they probably did not expect the overwhelming social media backlash it would generate. Because the truth is that as more people become aware of the sensitive and important place of sharks in the marine ecosystem, they just won’t tolerate such barbarism anymore!
What are we talking about?
Two fishermen posted pictures of themselves online showing them laughing and mocking a pregnant but now very dead Tiger shark . Other damning pictures showed endangered Hammerhead sharks and Nurse sharks; all dead, all caught in the waters of Southern Belize.
Public Outcry About The Belize Shark Fishing Incident
It’s surprising to note that among the sharks killed were some protected species especially the nurse sharks and the hammerheads.
How could this happen?
Well, shark fishing and hunting is actually still very legal in Belize despite efforts from conservation bodies to halt the practice.
For instance, Mar Alliance was the first well-known organization to condemn the two fishers. In addition, Oceana Belize chimed in on the issue.
Even local citizens acknowledge that though shark fishing is legal there, this was just an act of animal cruelty. They are now calling for authorities to step in and address the issue fast.
The catch included several globally endangered great hammerhead sharks, fully protected nurse shark, and a very rare and obviously pregnant tiger shark.
Oceana: The Deaths Of These Sharks Shouldn’t Go Unpunished
Oceana admitted that shark fishing is legal in Belize during their “open season.” But the entire process lacks transparency. For emphasis, how do authorities regulate or monitor who goes into the waters.
Do they know the species these “licensed hunters” are targeting? Do authorities even have the names and photographs of everyone licensed to engage in shark fishing in Belize?
Oceana is now asking that the names of these two fishermen, and other hunters, be made available on a public platform. The aim is to enable authorities monitor them with the help of the general public.
Also, Oceana is asking whether these two men actually had the required permits to fish and export the hammerheads (fins and meat). And, will anything be done about the deaths of the protected nurse shark since that’s obviously a breach of the law by the culprits.
The current shark fishing season will last from November 1st, 2017, to July 31st, 2018. Imagine how many sharks will die within that period.
Response From The Belize Authorities
In a somewhat disappointing reaction, the Belize City Fisheries Department insists that they would NOT issue any official statement on the matter. In fact, the Department said that shark fishing is legal in Belize. Therefore the men will not face any legal penalties.
Similarly, rangers in the region confirmed that both men had the legal documents to fish there and there are still dozens more of such legal fishermen in the area this shark hunting season.
But this situation has some far-reaching consequences and calls for serious intervention.
Look at what Dr. Rachel Graham, Executive Director of Mar Alliance had to say in a phone interview with 7 News Belize:
“People come here to actually swim and dive with sharks … what you saw in the pictures that were sent to us on Facebook was the killing of the largest tiger shark we have ever seen it is a female and it looks like it is pregnant. If you ask divers around the country how many times they dived with tiger sharks they will probably tell you never. That is how rare tiger sharks have become in our region.”
Fisheries personnel insist that the only way to halt shark fishing in Belize is public action. The community must bond together and campaign to end it. Doing that could pressure Cabinet members and government officials to finally take a firm decision and end shark fishing in Belize.
Or at least reduce it to the barest minimum.
You can follow the conversation from concerned members of the public on Twitter, and also lend your voice to pressure Belize into ending these barbaric and unsustainable shark fishing practices.