Capacity-Building Trip To Maine April 27 to May 4, 2013
After careful preparation by BFF Consultant, Nigel Martiinez, four BFF Executive Managing Committee members traveled to Maine, USA on April 17, 2013 for a week of intensive interaction with marine resource leaders, managers, scientists, and harvesters. Roberto Blanco of Sarteneja, Llewellyn Smith of Belize City, Ernest Sabal of Dangriga and Armando Rameriz of Punta Gorda traveled by plane from Belize City to Maimi to Boston where they were met by Ted Hoskins, BFF Executive Director. From there it was a bus ride to Portsmouth, New Hampshire and on by car to Stonington, Maine. There was much to see as they traveled from one destination to another…including a view of Penobscot Bay from Caterpiller Hill, a visit to the Maine Seacoast Mission 75 ft steel vessel Sunbeam on which Ted served and sailed for ten years, Billings Deisel and Marine which services the commercial fishing boats of midcoast Maine, and the Maine State Capitol in Augusta which houses the Department of Marine Resources.
But is was the personal interactions with fishermen, their families, and community leaders that caught our attention as they questioned us about our fishing practices and where we learned from them the amazing success story of lobster conservation that has led to awesome resource abundance.
Dr. James Wilson, professor of Economics at the University of Maine School of Marine Science, told us of the slow and often contentious progress toward abundant sustainability as fishers, managers and legislators struggled to agree on conservation methods that would truly work. We talked with Dr. Robert Steneck, world-class marine biologist who has done much work at Glovers Reef, … Dr. Carla Gunther, an MPA specialist who has been to Belize and met with the BFF… Ted Ames, scientist and fisherman, who is working on restoration of fished-out species… and Sarah Cotnoir, who oversees the work of the Lobster Advisory Council of the Department of Marine Resources… and Senator Dennis Damon who grew up in a fishing family and chaired the state’s Legislative Marine Resources Committee for many years.
The result of all this interaction became increasingly clear as the week went by. WE, the FISHERS, must take responsibility for the conservation and sustainability of Belize’s marine resources that we harvest. It is through collaborative research and effective co-management and responsible harvesting that the fishing future of Belize can be assured. We, as fishers, cannot be a part of the problem but must be a part of the solution.
Our task, as participants in the BFF trip to Maine, is to share what we have learned first with the Executive Managing Committee and then within the fishing communities we represent. Our fishing future depends upon it!