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Feb 17, 2015

Territorial Volunteers Encounter Illegal Guatemalan Fishermen Near Sarstoon

With sustained incursions by Guatemalan poachers into Belizean territory, along its terrestrial borders, a year-round issue for local law enforcement, military and coastguard patrols in the waters off southern Belize are often far and few.  Their absence in the far reaches of the country allows for illegal fishing near the Sarstoon River, like xate harvesting in the Chiquibul Forest, to go virtually unabated.  Over the weekend, a team of rangers from the Belize Territorial Volunteers claimed they encountered a group of Guatemalan fishermen setting gill nets near the mouth of the Sarstoon River.  When the patrol boat attempted to approach the fishermen it was met by a detail of Guatemalan soldiers who were also well inside Belizean waters.  According to BTV’s Wil Maheia, it is not the first incident to be reported and so far nothing has been done to address the matter.

 

Via Phone: Wil Maheia, Belize Territorial Volunteers

“The Belize Territorial Volunteers continue to go to the border.  We don’t often publicize it as we do sometimes but we continue to make trips to the border and on Sunday we went to the borderline with Guatemala, the Belize/Guatemala borderline and on the Sarstoon River on our way, just before getting to the Sarstoon River we saw a number of Guatemalans setting gill nets not far from the mouth of the Sarstoon so we went closer to them.  There were probably about five or ten of them with probably several miles of gill nets and while we were approaching them all of a sudden we saw a patrol boat with Guatemalan soldiers on it.  It just came right into Belizean waters and they basically asked us what we were doing, what we were doing in the area.  It seems like we as Belizeans don’t have the right to be inside Belize’s territory without being questioned by Guatemala anymore.  And, you know, they basically almost demanded to know what exactly we were doing in that area.  It seems like they are giving protection to their fishermen who continue to act illegally and exploit our resources.”

 

Wil Maheia

Isani Cayetano

“Now in terms of the immediate reaction from you guys as members of the Belize Territorial Volunteers, what was that like?”

 

Via Phone: Wil Maheia

“Well, we stood our grounds.  We made them know that look, we are inside Belize’s territory and we pointed out to them that they are wrong for being inside Belize’s territory and when they saw us holding our ground and not backing down or being afraid of them then they just turned their boat around and sailed off.”

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