Hon. Andre Perez, Minister of Blue Economy & Civil Aviation, categorically refutes the allegations made by the Coalition for Sustainable Fisheries and Oceana Belize in their joint press release dated March 16, 2021, and titled “Lobby by Illegal Gillnetters Threatens Gillnet Ban.”
The press release alleges that the Ministry of Blue Economy is refusing to meet with licensed Belizean fishers and is seeking to change Statutory Instrument No. 158, passed November 5, 2020, which bans the use of gillnets.
Minister Perez finds it imperative to inform the country and all concerned that the Belize Fishermen Cooperatives Association issued a lawsuit against the Minister of Blue Economy on the basis of a decision manufactured by Omar Figueroa, former Minister of Fisheries.
The lawsuit landed on the Minister’s desk just a few days after assuming office. In response, Minister Perez sought the legal aid of the Attorney General’s Ministry. It was prudent to receive proper guidance from legal representatives before engaging in discussions with any interested party. This guidance was especially significant as Minister Perez, upon assuming office, was not privy to all the details of the process that eventually led to the implementation of SI No. 158 of 2020.
The Ministry of Blue Economy is open to having discussions with the Coalition for Sustainable Fisheries and Oceana Belize but shares its disappointment in the hastily drawn conclusions and aspersions cast. The Ministry expects that both organizations will commit to working with the Ministry to put in place proper management, oversight, and programs to ensure the social protection of fishers and long-term sustainability of Belize’s aquatic resources.
The Ministry is soundly built on a foundation of inclusivity, fairness, and transparency. Any efforts to make baseless attacks on the integrity on which the Ministry is founded will not be taken lightly and will be challenged vehemently every step of the way.