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Drones Fight Illegal Fishing In Belize

The Belize Fisheries Department has started using drones to combat illegal fishing activities

Together with the US-based Wildlife Conservation Society and the nonprofit Conservation Drones.org the government of Belize has initiated the use of unmanned aerial vehicles (UVAs), or drones, in order to patrol the country's marine protected areas and enforce fishing regulations.

Unregulated and unreported fishing are some of the largest threats to Belize’s fishing industry. 

'Belize has been a leader in the establishment of marine protected areas, including the world-famous Glover’s Reef Marine Reserve, but fishing regulations are difficult to enforce on the open sea,' said Julio Maaz, Communities Fisheries Coordinator for WCS’s Marine Program in Belize.

In March this year, the EU suspended all fishing imports from Belize, Cambodia and Guinea on the grounds that these countries failed to act sufficiently against illegal fishing.

The UAVs can fly autonomously for more than an hour at a time within a range of 50 kilometres and high-definition photo and video material can downloaded when the drones are retrieved. The units also come at a fraction of the cost required for patrol vessels and Julio Maaz said he was convinced that the use of drones will help detect illegal fishing activities. 

'This exciting new enforcement tool will help the government and local communities protect their most valuable assets—the fisheries and coral reefs of Belize’s coastal waters,' said Dr Caleb McClennen, Executive Director of WCS Marine Conservation. 'The world’s oceans are in dire need of low cost innovations for improving the cost efficiency and effectiveness of enforcement efforts. This represents an exciting pilot program for Belize, the wider Caribbean, and nearshore marine parks and fisheries around the world.'

The international marine conservation organisation The Black Fish is planning to launch a similar programme to monitor illegal fishing in the Mediterannean later this summer. 



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