The fishing industry is a vital part of the Belizean economy accounting for 7.2% of the GDP in 2001. Fishing has grown from a subsistence type activity to a commercial activity exporting to the U.S., Europe and the Caribbean. The export market opened in the 1920s, with lobster and conch being the top exported products. These products have remained important parts of catches for fishermen in Belize. Most fishing takes place inside the Barrier Reef and around Glovers', Turneffe and Lighthouse Reef.
Fish at the coop prepared for export
Fishermen come from many towns along the coast of Belize including Sarteneja and Corozal Town in the north. The town of Sarteneja survives on fishing - 90% of the inhabitants rely on catches of lobster, conch and fin fish to make a living. Many of the fishing boats which ply the waters of the Barrier Reef originate from Sarteneja or Corozal.
Fishing the Barrier Reef
Fishing boats come in many shapes and sizes depending on their use and catch. Open boats are made of either wood or fibreglass, 4.3-7.6 m in length, propelled by outboard engines primarily for lobster trapping. These boats tend to work within a days journey of home.
Fishing Skiff at Dawn
Sloops are mostly wooden vessels up to 10 m in length, equipped with sails and smaller auxiliary outboard engines primarily for free diving for lobster, conch and occasionally finfish. These are the boats that range all over the coastal areas of Belize in search of catch.
Sailboat from Sarteneja
Large dug-out canoes are used in fishing areas closer to home, and are equipped with small engines and oars, primarily for fishing finfish using handlines or nets.
Fishing Dory close to shore
The fishing seasons for conch and lobster are:
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