Belize fishing enforcement is about to go high-tech as fishing regulators roll out new drone aircraft to help catch poachers, according to the Amandala, a leading newspaper in Belize.
The official term is IUU – illegal, unreported and unregulated – but between you and me it sounds a lot like poaching. And it’s a big problem in Belize.
Happily, the government of Belize takes the problem very seriously. We know this because for years their fishing conservation effort has been centered on Glover’s Reef at Middle Caye, a short distance from Slickrock’s Adventure Island on Long Caye. At a gathering of enforcement staffers earlier this month, the agency reviewed the results of recent tests conducted on Middle Caye using drone aircraft, which they have dubbed “conservation drones.”
Directors from conservationdrones.org, a Southeast Asia-based international initiative to build low-cost drones for conservation efforts, told the staffers that, based on the Middle Caye tests, the drone aircraft most suited to the winds off the coast of Belize was The Flying Wing. Coincidentally, that is the same model our own Cully Erdman (co-owner of Slickrock Adventures) uses recreationally in glider configuration here at our stateside home-base in Moab, Utah.
Fuel Efficiency Is Major Advantage of Drone Aircraft
The main advantage of using drones is to cut the government’s fuel bill for patrols. Julio Maaz of the Wildlife Conservation Society was present for the tests and said the drone aircraft, including all the add-on surveillance gear, would cost about half what it costs the government to buy a single boat and motor. And that is only the beginning. There is also the significant savings on the fuel to operate the boat. The drones are electric and use very little power. There is even talk about adding solar panels to the drone aircraft which would cut operation costs even further. The main downside to using drone aircraft is that they are grounded during foul weather.
The Fisheries Department will submit a recommendation to the government and await final approval before proceeding with the project.