Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Season Greeting - From PM Barrow of Belize

The Prime Minister of Belize, Hon. Dean Barrow, First Lady Kim Simplis-Barrow & Salima wish you the Compliments of the Season! Happy Holidays!

Photo: Leonardo Melendez Photography

via Government of Belize Press Office

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Mandela's Final Resting Place: Returned Home To QuNu

Mandela 'returns home' to final resting place (via AFP)
Nelson Mandela's remains were returned to his beloved rural childhood village on the eve of a traditional burial Sunday, the final leg of his exceptional 95-year journey. As South Africa prepared to say goodbye to the prisoner-turned-president who led…

Thursday, December 5, 2013

The Passing Of Nelson Mandela

Today, we mourn the passing of Nelson Mandela and celebrate the last chapter of the long walk to freedom. The father of the South African nation, Prisoner #4664 is gone!   
If anyone deserves a peaceful walk home and an unqualified thanks from
the world, it's Nelson Mandela. He torn down the oppression and united a nation to freedom. 

Former south African President Nelson Mandela died today at age 95. Mr. Mandela was best known as a prisoner turned peacemaker who took South Africa out of the chains of apartheid and changed the country. 

South African President Jacob Zuma confirmed the news:
"He is now resting. He is now at peace," Zuma said. "Our nation has lost its greatest son. Our people have lost a father."
Mandela is viewed by millions as a great example of compassion and perseverance; 27 years in jail, 5 years as President of South Africa and 95 years on earth to prove to the world that there is no black or white South Africa, but a united rainbow South Africa for all its citizens. 

His impact on humanity reached well beyond South Africa and ultimately earned him the Nobel Peace Prize in 1993. As a young man, Mandela earned a Bachelor's of Arts degree at the University of Fort Hare. He was elected to the Student Representative Council and was suspended from college for joining a protest and boycott.

Mandela became qualified in law in 1942.  And his law degree allowed him to begin practicing law in August of 1952 where he and Oliver Tambo established South Africa's first black law firm, Mandela and Tambo. 

A few years (December 5, 1955) into his law practice, Mandela found himself on the other side of the law where he was put on trial for treason along with 155 other activists. The case known as the Treason Trial, dragged on until the last accused, including Mandela, was acquitted on March 29, 1961.

While the trial was going on, Nelson Mandela married Winnie Madikizela, a social worker, on June 14, 1958. They had two daughters, Zenani and Zindziswa. Mandela and Winnie were divorced in 1996.

In 1944, Mandela helped to established the youth wing of African National Congress (ANC) and he rose through the ranks to lead the armed struggle against apartheid. 

On Jan. 11, 1962, Mandela secretly left South Africa under the name of David Motsamayi. He traveled the African continent and abroad to gain support for armed struggle against the apartness system. Before returning to South Africa, Mandela received military training in Morocco and Ethiopia.

Before he could put his training to use, Mandela and eight members of the ANC were arrested and stood trial in 1964 for plotting to overthrow the government by violent acts. Following this trial he was sentenced to life in prison in 1965. During his imprisonment, Mandela spent 18 of his 27 years on Robben Island Prison confined to a tiny cell with the floor for his bed and bucket for a toilet. He was forced to do hard labor in a quarry and was allowed only one visitor a year for 30 minutes. He served his term until Feb. 11, 1990. 

He was released form prison and became South Africa's first black president in 1994; the first president (1994-June 1999) to be elected in a full representative democratic election. 

In recent years, his health began to fail and he was hospitalized in February of 2012 for a stomach ailment. After being released from hospital, Mandela returned to the community where he was born. Mandela died 5 months after his 95th birthday, July 18, 2013.

Mandela is survived by his wife, Graca Machal, his former wife, Winnie Madikizela-Mandela and three daughters, Pumla Makaziwe, Zenani and Zindziswa Mandela.

Mr. Mandela will be remembered for his deep belief in social justice, and his commitment to equality for all people everywhere.
A Hero For The Ages
As sad and painful as it is, time catches up with us all. Hitting 95  is great by all accounts. Mr. Mandela, your legacy will live on forever. Thank you for making this world a better place. I honor and respect you!  

For to be free is not merely to cast off one's chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others. ~Nelson Mandela~

No one is born hating another ... ~ Nelson Mandela~

I cannot conceive of Israel withdrawing if Arab states do not recognize Israel, within secure borders. ~Nelson Mandela~

Monday, December 2, 2013

‘Wanaragua’ - A New Children's Book By Cayetano Family

There is a new publication in Belize, a children’s book, and just in time for the holidays to add to your home library.  Artist Pen Cayetano and his wife, Ingrid, launched the book, “Wanaragua.” It is authored and designed by Ingrid and her children, who currently spend their time between Belize and Germany. 
The Cayetanos document the story of the jankunu dance and its history through paintings and words. The book was printed in China and arrived in the Belize in late October. The launching will be at the Leo Bradley Library in Belize City.
 The Leo Bradley Library, Belize City in collaboration with the Pen Cayetano Studio Gallery from Dangriga presented the new Children’s book “Wanaragua’ written by Ibo and Ingrid Cayetano and designed by Mali Cayetano with a book launch on December, 4th. 2013.
The story of the book is based on the traditional Christmas dance of the Garinagu also known as Jankunu. This family project was realized with brother Beni who created the storyboard and brother Ibo who co-authored and mother Ingrid responsible for writing, translation, management and marketing. Father Pen Cayetano shared his artistic experience.
Mali, an illustrator, musician, artist, and youth educator has been teaching children in Belize and Germany and she has the desire to preserve and disseminate the Garifuna culture, music and dance.
The original artwork from the book and other merchandise are on display and can be viewed during the opening hours of the Library until 3rd January 2014.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Magnificent Gorge - Taroko National Park - Hualien, Taiwan

We traveled by train to Taiwan’s eastern side; regular rail service travels through rugged terrain to the coastal city of Hualien, it took about 2.5 hours. 

The ocean-side town sits in the gorgeous shadows of the nearby mountain ranges and it’s also the gateway to Toroko National Park, set way up in the hills about 30 minutes north.

Together with its diversified topographic features, Taiwan boasts an environment that is special and very interesting in terms of ecology and evolution sense.

Taroko National Park was established on November 28, 1986. It covers more than 92,000 hectares in the northern section of the Central Mountain Range.

Taroko Gorge is spectacular and has many amazing and scenic beauties; the park has varied mountain peaks, numerous waterfalls, diverse plant forms and animal life, together with the indigenous Taroko people, they create the rich texture of this unique natural ecosystem.

Taroko is truly a wonder to behold!

Happy Thanksgivukkah To All!

And the Menurkey is lit for the first night of Hanukkah!!

Wow, it has been 125 years since Thanksgiving fell on the first day of Hanukkah, a rare occasion!! And everywhere you look around the web and on social networks people are excited; so excited are they that a new word has been born, "Thanksgivukkah"! 

The secular calendar and the Jewish calendar collided this year and we now have a once-in-a-life time convergence; something that will not happen again for another 70,000 years.

The reason for this year's rare alignment has to do with quirks of two calendars, the Gregorian and Jewish calendars. Much of the world follows the Gregorian calendar, which has a 365-day year based on the Earth's orbit around the sun, with leap years every four years. The Gregorian calendar was implemented by Pope Gregory to keep Easter in line with the season it was originally celebrated in.

But the Jewish calendar, which was created more than 2,000 years ago, follows the waxing and waning of the moon. That calendar has 12 months of roughly 30 days each, which works out to a bit more than 354 days in a year. As a result, the Jewish year creeps earlier and earlier relative to the Gregorian calendar. But many Jewish holidays, such as Passover, are tied to seasons such as spring.

To keep holidays in line with their seasons, the Jewish calendar includes an entire extra month in seven of every 19 years. This year is a leap year, so Hanukkah and all of the other Jewish holidays came especially early in 2013. And Thanksgiving, which falls on the fourth Thursday in November, happened to come extra late this year, allowing for the convergence.

This Hanukkah and Thanksgiving I am thankful for family, health, prosperity, food, technology, friends and music. 

As we all gather around our tables with our loved ones, I would like to wish each of you a Happy Hanukkah and a joyous Thanksgiving!

On Hanukkah and Thanksgiving 

Grateful for our gifts and grateful for our past,
We cherish our spiritual inheritances:
The pilgrims who journeyed,
The Maccabees who fought,
The generations who struggled and sacrificed to preserve their memory.
As Americans and Jews, Dear God, we are doubly blessed:
Given so long a legacy to celebrate in so sublime a land.
So we light a candle, set the table, say our prayers
And declare the miracles – of our tradition, our freedom and our future.
We rededicate ourselves to live so that we might be worthy
Of the greatness bequeathed to us,
And merit the joy of handing it on to generations.
- Rabbi David Wolpe


Photo: W. Daroff via Twitter acct: https://twitter.com/Daroff

Monday, November 11, 2013

Remembrance Day In Belize

Remembrance day (also know as Poppy Day or Armistice Day) commemorates the sacrifices and calamities of all the commonwealth countries and all countries in World War I and World War II. 

On the eleventh hour, of the eleventh day, on the eleventh month, 1918, Germany signs an armistice agreement with the Allies in a railroad car in the forest of Compiegne, France. The fighting officially ended at 11:00 a.am. 
Painting: Painting depicting the signature of the armistice in the railway carriage in 1918. From left to right are German Admiral Ernst Vanselow, German Count Alfred von Oberndorff of the Foreign Ministry, German General, Detlof von Winterfeldt (with helmet), British naval officer Captain Jack Marriott, and standing in front of the table, Matthias Erzberger, head of the German delegation. Behind the table are two British naval officers, Rear-Admiral George Hope, First Sea Lord Admiral Sir Rosslyn Wemyss, and the French representatives, Marshal Ferdinand Foch (standing), and General Maxime Weygand.

The armistice between the Allies and Germany – also known as the Armistice of Compi├Ęgne after the location it was signed – was an agreement that ended the fighting in the First World War. It went into effect at 11 am on 11 November 1918, and marked a victory for the Allies and a complete defeat for Germany, although not technically a surrender. The Germans were responding to the policies proposed by American president Woodrow Wilson in his Fourteen Points of January 1918. 

The actual terms, largely written by French Marshal Ferdinand Foch, included the cessation of hostilities, the withdrawal of German troops behind their own borders, the preservation of infrastructure, the exchange of prisoners, a promise of reparations, the disposition of German warships and submarines, and conditions for prolonging or terminating the armistice. Although the armistice ended the actual fighting, it took six months of negotiations at the Paris Peace Conference to conclude the peace treaty, the Treaty of Versailles.

In Belize and throughout the Commonwealth there will be a resounding silence; it will be for remembering all those fallen heroes of the two world wars. Many people wear artificial poppies on their clothes in the weeks before Remembrance Day. Red poppies symbolize the memory of those who died and white poppies campaigns for non-military interventions in conflict situations. 

On November 11, special church services are organized. These often include the playing of "The Last Post", a reading of the fourth verse of the 'Ode of Remembrance' and two minutes silence at 11:00 a.m. After the service, wreaths are laid at local war memorials.

The official Belize national ceremonies will be held at the National Memorial Park in Belize City, according to a strict protocol. A service is held and wreaths are laid by armed services representatives. 
Some schools that are open on Remembrance Day hold special assemblies, lessons and presentations on armed conflicts and those who died in them.
Photos of Belize City, Belize ceremony on Remembrance Day 2013.
Lest we forget!

Photos #1 and #2: ©iStockphoto.com/James Warren
Photo #3: Wikipedia
All Belize city photos by Marcelino Miranda

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Prime Minister of Belize To Undergo Surgery Abroad

The Prime Minister of Belize, the RT. Hon. Dean Barrow has left Belize today, Sunday, November 3, 2013 to seek medical treatment for chronic back pain.

Mr. Barrow's office issued a brief statement saying that he will be traveling to Los Angeles where he is scheduled to undergo surgery for his ailing back.

He said that the surgery should alleviate at least 80 percent of his pain and if successful he should be back in Belize by November 14, 2013.

During the prime minister's absence, the deputy prime minister, Hon. Gasper Vega will stand in as prime minister.

I hope that the surgery goes well!

Read More Here: http://www.7newsbelize.com/printstory.php?func=print&nid=26974

Friday, November 1, 2013

The Great Blue Hole Placed 8th In The “8th Wonder Of The World Competition”

Belize City, Belize – November 1, 2013 – The Belize Tourism Board is pleased to announce that The Great Blue Hole has placed in top ten of the ‘8th Wonder of the World’ competition. Competing against three hundred man-made and natural sites from across the world, Belize finished 8th in the Virtual Tourist competition.

“We are extremely proud to be in the top ten; along with worthy competing landmarks. Considering the population size of the nations we were up against and their advertising spend to promote this competition, we’ve done extremely well. It goes to show how our very small efforts of social media, word of mouth, and media releases contributed to our placement. While we didn’t place first, we have certainly reaped the benefits of added exposure of our Great Blue Hole and Belize as a destination,” said BTB’s Director of Marketing & Industry Relations, Alyssa Carnegie.

After four months of on-line voting (June-October), the landmark with the most votes was deemed the winner and will be featured in a national TV segment and receive major PR push from Virtual Tourist. Participating countries, like Belize, received prominent features and publicity across multiple social media platforms. The winner of the competition was Chile’s Torres del Paine National Park. Other top ten finishers include: El Salvador, Guatemala, Colombia, Mexico and Curacao.

The BTB takes this opportunity to thank the Belizean public, Belize Telemedia Limited, Tourism Industry partners and the local media houses for their unwavering support during the competition. Further information and a total list of standings will be available at www.virtualtourist.com/8thwonderin the coming days.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Press Release Statement by Mrs. Kim Simplis Barrow On Amandala Article

 I'm again calling on Belizeans, especially women, to condemn and boycott the Amandala Newspaper until a public apology is made regarding the offensive article written by Colin BH. Below this release is the link to the repulsive article.

Link to article by Colin BH:http://www.villageviewpost.com/2013/10/bake-it-again-commentary-in-belizes.html

Queen's Birthday Honors - Belize

(R) Sir Colville Young, Governor General  
On October 23, 2013 at the Belize House in Belmopan, three Belizean men were appointed to the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire for their outstanding service to their Belizean communities. 

Frank Alexander Lizama and Colville Ludwig Young Jr., both appointed Order of the British Empire: Mr. Lizama for his contribution to art, education and politics and Mr. Young for his contribution to education and music. 

Receiving the insignia for Member of the British Empire was singer and musician, Norman Samuel Elburt Hamilton, known throughout Belize as Sam Hamilton, for his contribution to music. The appointments were announced in June 2013 as a part of the Queen’s Birthday Honors.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

"Bake It Again" : Commentary In Belize's Leading Newspaper Condoning RAPE

On October 20, 2013 a commentary in one of Belize's leading newspapers, The Amandala (print edition only), was published under the heading "Bake It Again" by Colin BH. The statements made in this article condone the culture of rape and violence against women and girls in Belize and everywhere in the world. In my opinion, this is one of the worse editorial decisions I have ever seen in any of the major newspapers in Belize. Simply put, this is an endorsement of the rape and blaming of women and girls who are raped; rape is a violent crime and perpetrators everywhere should be punished. 
The following is an excerpt from Mr. BH's editorial:

"Rape is the most heinous of crimes and deservedly carries severe penalties. But the rape of a male by a male is more heinous than the rape of a female by a male. Consider that (1) the female might one day fall in love with the male; (2), the female provoked the immature/crazy male to commit this act; (3), it is a natural act; (4), the female might be entirely whorish, so the act is of little consequence."
Rape knows no boundary and respects no lines of gender, class, age or privilege. It's the responsibility of each of us to teach our children and anyone else in our care not to commit rape, and to respect the boundaries and rights of others.
This is about human rights! Everyone has the right to be safe from violence, regardless of gender. And everyone has the responsibility to choose not to commit harm to another human being.

I am appalled by these statements and I am calling for The Amandala to publicly apologize to all women, men and children in Belize.

Here is a link to Colin BH response to his critics http://amandala.com.bz/news/colin-bh-hot-seat/

Saturday, October 19, 2013

PM Of Belize To US: Change Your Form Of Government

The Prime Minister of Belize, Dean O. Barrow and his wife Kim Simplis Barrow are on a fund raising tour of Los Angeles, California, and their trip is making headlines all over the Internet. TMZ, (Ten Mile Zone) the celebrity/paparazzi news website caught up with the prime minister and his wife on Thursday, October 17, 2013 on their way out of a swanky L.A. restaurant, Madeo and asked if he had any advise for the US Government to avoid shutdown.

PM Dean Barrow responded by saying that "You have to switch to the parliamentary system."

But TMZ took this as an "International Smack Down Talk" directed towards the US Government and had a word or two about PM Barrow and Belize.  

"Boom, Smack talk!

FYI - Belize operates on a parliamentary system (a form of government with no president, in which the leader of the majority party of the leader of the country).  

“Boom. Smack talk!

FYI -- Belize operates on a parliamentary system (a form of government with no president, in which the leader of the majority party is the leader of the country).
Now, Belize has its problems, too -- according to the various media reports the country has a Caa1 credit rating -- which essentially translates to "piss poor."
But we hear the snorkeling is spectacular ...
Turns out, Dean Barrow has a serious celebrity connection ... 'cause his son is the rapper Shyne!  According to reports, Barrow and his son are estranged ... but after Shyne was convicted of attempted murder, assault, and reckless endangerment several years ago, his dad petitioned the governor of NY for a pardon. But the request was denied, and Shyne was deported back to Belize.”
Before departing Belize The Government Press Office sent out an announcement on Wednesday, October 16, 2013, stating that Prime Minister Dean Barrow was departing the country for Los Angeles, California at the invitation of Belize Consulate and Belizean living in the Los Angeles area. The Belizean Consulate and it's task force had organized several meetings and fund raising functions which PM Barrow and his wife would attend.  The release also stated that the prime minister would use the visit to hold consultations with medical doctors on spinal problems he has been experiencing.

Prime Minister Barrow is expected to return in Belize on Friday, 25rd October. 2013.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

PM Dean Barrow to Hon. Elvin Penner "Heed the call to resign" from the House of Representative

PM Dean Barrow to Hon. Elvin Penner "Head the call to resign" 

 Breaking News: Prime Minister Dean O. Barrow, in a statement at a press conference held today, Tuesday, October 15th, has revealed that the Hon. Alvin Penner can no longer represent the people of Cayo North East as a member of the United Democratic Party.

PM Barrow said that after further evidence and irregularities
were presented to Cabinet over the weekend regarding Hon. Penner’s involvement in the passport fiasco his government can no longer support him.

Penner, who is in Guatemala as of press time, has been informed of the Cabinet decision. PM Barrow went on record to ask Penner to heed to a request of resignation from the House of Representatives and the UDP to give way for a by-election.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Taiwan's National Day


Today, October 10, is a holiday in Taiwan; it's the National Day, also known as Double Tenth Day. It marks the start of the Wuchang Uprising of 10 October 1911.
The revolt is the end of the Qing (Ching) Dynasty that had been established in 1644 by the invading Manchus. The revolt led to the founding of the Republic of China on 1 January 1912.
The revolt in Wuchang was successful and it led to other uprisings breaking out in cities across china. The inevitable fall of the dynasty swiftly followed and Sun Yat-sen was elected provisional president of the new republic.
Following the Chinese Civil War, the Government of the Republic of China lost control of mainland China to the Communists and relocated to Taiwan in 1949.
In the run up to the National Day, the square in front of the Presidential Office Building in Taipei, the capital of Taiwan, is illuminated. There are large parades and rallies, displays of martial arts, folk dancing, and other cultural activities on the holiday. Celebrations end with a spectacular firework display over an island in the middle of the Tarmsui River in Taipei.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Belize Chastises Rich Nations At The UN

Foreign Minister Wilfred Elrington of Belize. UN Photo/Paulo Filgueiras
30 September 2013 – Developed nations have not honoured their commitments to provide the assistance poor countries need to achieve the global anti-poverty targets known as the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), the Foreign Minister of Belize told United Nations Member States today, stressing that the future development agenda must not suffer the same fate.
Agreed by world leaders at a UN summit in 2000, the MDGs set specific goals on poverty alleviation, education, gender equality, child and maternal health, environmental stability, HIV/AIDS reduction, and a global partnership for development.
“It is evident that for some inexplicable reason, the developed countries abandoned goal 8,” Wilfred P. Elrington told the General Assembly’s high-level debate, referring to the MDG on a global partnership for development.
“We note with disappointment, that the rich countries have not even been able to bring themselves to honour their commitment to contribute even the 0.7 per cent of their gross domestic product as official domestic assistance to poor countries,” he said.

Monday, September 30, 2013

Belize Charge d' Affaires Now Ambassador To Taiwan

The China Post, a Taiwanese English language daily has recently reported that Cherie Minette Nisbet, Belize’s former charge d’affaires at the Embassy of Belize in Taiwan, has been promoted to the post of ambassador to Taiwan.

The post reported that Nisbet presented a certified copy of a letter of credence to Foreign Minister David Lin on Sept. 16. The announcement was made by Florencia Hsieh, deputy director-general of MOFA's Department of Latin American and Caribbean Affairs. Hsieh also said that Ms. Nisbet will soon present the official letter of credence to President Ma Ying-jeou to officially assume the post of ambassador to the R.O.C. 

The article also said that Nisbet has been the Belizean Embassy's charge d'affaires since August 2011. And according to Hsieh, Belize's decision to promote Nisbet to ambassador is part of the ally's ongoing policy to forge closer bilateral ties. It also noted that Belize would grant Taiwan passport holders visa-free entry for up to 90 days.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Belize's Uninvited Guest - The Lionfish

Belize's Uninvited Guest - by By Jo Hudson of Blue Ventures

On Tuesday July 2 at 11am, a very special box left Belize on its way to the U.S. Its contents? Eleven and a half pounds of filleted lionfish (Pterois volitans), a species that poses one of the greatest threats to the sustainability of coral reefs and fisheries throughout the Caribbean.

Lionfish, an insatiable predator native to the Indian and Pacific oceans, was accidentally introduced to the western Atlantic near Florida in the 1980s. This voracious fish has been devouring its way through much of the region’s marine biodiversity ever since, wreaking ecological havoc across Caribbean reefs from Panama to Puerto Rico.

With each lionfish capable of gulping down fish half its size, the unsuspecting Caribbean prey have never encountered a fish that hunts quite like it, and stand little chance in the face of their new predator’s impressive bulk and menacing venomous spines. The diverse Caribbean menu on offer has enabled the lionfish to develop a varied palate in its adopted home, gorging itself on invertebrates and reef fish alike.

Lionfish can be speared or captured using traditional lobster hooks. Without a Fisheries ‘Lionfish License’, it is illegal to spearfish within protected areas or on SCUBA.

Alongside its all-you-can-eat banquet, an absence of known predators in the Atlantic creates ideal breeding conditions for lionfish, with the animals reproducing at faster rates than in their native Indo-Pacific waters. This, coupled with the remarkable fecundity of female lionfish—producing up to two million eggs each year—means populations are exploding unchecked.

Five years after its first sighting in Belizean waters in 2008, lionfish are now decimating marine life along the length of the world heritage-listed Belize barrier reef. Beyond upsetting the ecology of this global biodiversity hotspot, the lionfish invasion now stands to undermine two of Belize’s most important industries: fishing and tourism.

Earning this small Caribbean nation around US $250 million each year, tourism accounts for almost one fifth of GDP, with many of the country’s 800,000 annual visitors drawn by an underwater wonderland that is now imperiled by the lionfish. And with Belize’s fishing sector worth a further US $27 million and employing 1% of the population, the loss of commercially important marine species to this unwelcome visitor threatens the traditional fishing livelihoods that are the lifeblood of the country’s coastal communities.

The Best Defense Is a Good Offense

But hope for Caribbean reefs is not yet lost. While the lionfish is now so well established that complete eradication is impractical, large-scale removal of lionfish could help to slow or even halt its rapid population growth.

But how to go about this seemingly impossible task? In Belizean waters efforts are now underway to confront the lion in its lair. The lionfish has a taste not unlike perennial favorites grouper and cod, with a delicate flavor and flaky texture. Yet fishermen have yet to catch up with this exciting new market opportunity, often remaining wary of targeting a fish armed with rows of syringe-sharp toxic spines.

Across Belize, conservationists are now working with communities to teach fishermen lionfish handling and processing techniques, in doing so cultivating new domestic and international markets for this surprisingly delicious fish.
“The common belief among the fishers in Belize was that the sting of a lionfish was fatal” says Jen Chapman, Conservation Coordinator for Blue Ventures Belize.” But when we started running handling demonstrations and the fishers saw me handling the lionfish without fear it became a matter of pride.”

Developing a market for the tasty invader is the most practical management solution, creating economic incentives for the regular removal of lionfish from Belize’s reefs. It also offers an alternative target species for the Belizean fishing industry, which is dominated by conch and lobster; both of which are showing signs of decline. Growth in the number of fishers has increased competition for stocks within Belize’s strict quota system, resulting in the early closure of the conch fishing season two years running. When the fishery is closed, fishing communities lose their main livelihood, buoying concerns over illegal fishing.

A Market for New Opportunities

Along Belize’s sleepy mangrove-fringed northern coast lies the remote village of Sarteneja, the largest fishing community in the country. Here, fishermen carve their wooden sailing boats by hand. They use these vessels for week-long sailing trips throughout Belize’s waters. With four fifths of households dependent for income on free diving for conch and lobster, this village feels the impacts of dwindling stocks first, and deepest.

“When the conch season closes early, it affects us. We can’t work, and have to try and find work elsewhere– sometimes there is none.,” says a fisher from Sarteneja who didn’t wish to be named. “Lionfish has advantages– it helps us as we can catch it and sell it, but it is bad for the reef, so it is good if we fish it. Especially when the conch season is closed, we can still work on the sea.”

Lionfish stomach contents, including a juvenile blue tang, a species protected from fishing on account of its ecological importance to Belize’s reefs: as a herbivore, it prevents corals from becoming smothered by algae.

Meanwhile, at the other end of Belize on the tip of a long, white-sand peninsula and surrounded by Mayan ruins and pristine rainforest, is Placencia; a peaceful village which has been making waves for its environmentally friendly approach to managing marine resources. The small local fishing cooperative, which was established in 1962, has been building a global reputation for its sustainable fishing efforts and enhancing local livelihoods. The success of Placencia’s seaweed farming project was the catalyst for them to explore other alternative opportunities, and develop a partnership with marine conservation NGO Blue Ventures and U.S. sustainable seafood distributor Traditional Fisheries.

“Lionfish is not only a business for Placencia and [the cooperative’s] members”, said Justino Mendez of the Placencia Producers’ Cooperative Society Ltd. “It is a business for the entire country; from Sarteneja all the way to Punta Gorda.”

The first fishing cooperative in the country to make such a bold move, Placencia now purchases lionfish harvested by local and Sartenejan fishers alike, with fish being processed in a locally-owned and managed facility. This facility, the first in Belize capable of processing lionfish, received certification from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in late June, authorizing export to the United States.

When Placencia’s first shipment of lionfish took off from Belize’s Philip S.W. Goldson International Airport bound for Minneapolis, the cooperative took a bold new step in paving the way for a Belizean lionfish fishery, setting an example for communities throughout Belize wanting to join the country’s war on the lionfish. Already other communities are following Placencia’s lead, promoting lionfish as a sustainable and delicious alternative to native reef species.

“We’re very excited about taking the first shipment here out of Belize… Right now the majority of our clients are high-end restaurants in New York City, Las Vegas, Chicago and Houston” said David Johnson, CEO of Traditional Fisheries. “We’d love to see lionfish become a common fish to eat and really make a difference in the Caribbean.”

There is a long way to go in the fight against the lionfish, but by swimming with the current of market-based incentives, Blue Ventures is hopeful that fishing could provide a lifeline to Belize’s reefs – promoting economic growth and safeguarding ecological resilience.

By Jo Hudson of Blue Ventures