Voice Your Support for Belize

An open letter asking for support for important catch-and-release regulations.

Following a lengthy and comprehensive study of the value of permit, bonefish and tarpon to the economy of Belize, the government is considering legislation forbidding the slaughter of these fish for market value. If you believe that these three fish are more valuable caught and released than they are in a fish market, please take a few minutes to write an actual letter'”not an e-mail'”expressing your thoughts.

You might include the approximate amount you spent on a trip to Belize in Belize (lodge, guides, tips, visits to Mayan ruins, etc. Not tackle you bought in the U.S., just what was spent in Belize.)

Address your letter to:

Honorable Minister Heredia
Minister of Tourism and Civil Aviation
PO Box 325
Belize City
Belize

and/or

Honorable Minister Montero
Minister of Fisheries and Agriculture
PO Box 148
Belize City
Belize

DO NOT send them to the ministers in Belize, but rather to:

Craig Hayes
Turneffe Flats
P.O. Box 10670
Bozeman, MT 57719

Craig is leading this fight. He will compile the letters into a binder and present them in Belize at a meeting on June 24. So, do not delay. If you want a copy of the full study or an "executive summary," contact Hayes at [email protected].

This is an open letter from Craig asking for support:

Recently, Friends of Turneffe Atoll, Inc., a non-profit company initiated by Turneffe Flats, funded a major study entitled Economic Impact of Recreational Fishing for Bonefish Permit and Tarpon in Belize for 2007'.

The purpose of the study is to provide decision makers in Belize with the information needed to proceed with the best possible policy for Belize regarding these species. Many of us in Belize, including Belize River Lodge, El Pescador, Jim Scott and others have been working to get these three species protected and feel, at this point, that protection should take the form of designating bonefish, permit and tarpon as catch-and-release species only.

Recently, Belizes Minister of Tourism, Minister Heredia and the Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries, Minister Montero declared their support for this approach and we are quite hopeful that the process will continue to move forward. At a meeting held yesterday, a draft of legislation to designate bonefish, permit and tarpon as sportfish, for catch and release only, was drafted. It has yet to be fully vetted and sent to cabinet but the process is well underway.

We have been waiting for the best time to ask for letters of support from industry people and I believe that time has come. Points in your letter might include some of the following as well as anything else you would like to add.

1. As you know, Belize has been a leader in protecting their natural habitat. Compliments for these efforts as well as suggestions that further leadership regarding bonefish, permit and tarpon would be worthwhile. In particular, compliments to Ministers Heredia and Montera for their foresight and assistance are in order.

2. If applicable, a rough estimate of the number of people traveling through your business to all destinations around the World to fish for bonefish, permit and tarpon and the rough percentage of those going to Belize. We are aware that this information may be a bit sensitive, but it will allow the decision makers to understand the potential economic impact as well as the current impact.

3. Emphasize that sport fishermen traveling to Belize do so for the chance to fish for all of these species and that there are not many places in the World with this kind of variety.

4. Note that Belize is (arguably) known as the permit fishing capital of the World and it is very important to include this species.

We are in the process of disseminating the results of the study throughout the sport fishing and tourism industry in Belize to build support for the pending legislation. The next step will a project aimed at building a coalition between government and the private sector in Belize to implement this legislation and provide ongoing enforcement. This will be larger hurdle but equally as important.

If possible, by June 10th please send a hard copy of your letter to P.O. Box 10670, Bozeman, MT 59719 and also return one to me via e-mail at [email protected]. This is moving along quickly and the next important meeting is scheduled for June 24th. Thanks for your help and keep you fingers crossed.

Craig Hayes
Turneffe Flats