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The tiny nation of Belize took a giant step today in a global effort. It decided to safeguard the oceans by banning all forms of trawling in the country’s waters.
At first, Belize ignored international calls to ban the destructive fishing gear. But when the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) recently threatened to strip the Belize Barrier Reef of its World Heritage Site status, the government finally took notice.
Facing UNESCO repercussions, Prime Minister Dean Barrow’s administration took action. He negotiated the buy-out of the country’s commercial shrimp trawlers. He also initiated a ban on all future trawling.
Shrimp trawls are notorious for the amount of bycatch they haul in. Thousands of sea turtles, marine mammals, and untargeted fish are caught in shrimp trawlers around the world every year. Meanwhile, bottom trawlers’ weighted nets effectively bulldoze the ocean floor with every pass. This destroys sensitive corals and anything else in their way.
Particularly at risk is the Belize Barrier Reef, which is part of the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef System. This is the second largest coral reef system in the world after Australia’s Great Barrier Reef. The reef is a destination for sailors, divers, and snorkelers around the world.
Both bareboat and crewed catamaran charters have increased significantly in recent years along the coast of Belize. Seasoned sailors and vacationers seeking less-crowded anchorages have discovered the unspoiled charm of the Belize Barrier Reef.
In conclusion, the stoppage goes into effect December 31st. Belize then becomes one of the first countries in the world to institute a complete and permanent ban on trawling in all its waters.
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