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Feb 19, 2015

Guatemalan Fishermen and Soldiers In Belizean Waters, Coastguard Steps Up Patrol Measures

Earlier this week, we showed you images of Guatemalan soldiers purportedly on patrol in Belizean waters near the Sarstoon River.  Those images were captured by members of the Belize Territorial Volunteers who were in the vicinity when they encountered Guatemalan fishermen setting gill nets in the area.  When the team approached the fishermen they were met by a patrol boat carrying three military officers.  According to Wil Maheia, it is not the first incident to be reported but government has been sluggish in its response to the matter.  This afternoon, News Five spoke with Commander Elton Bennett of the Belize National Coast Guard who informed us that riverine patrols are not conducted by the agency.  That responsibility, he says, fall under the Belize Defense Force.

 

Elton Bennett

Commander Elton Bennett, Vice Commandant, BNCG

“What we have started to do since January of this year is to have an additional deployment just off the coast of Punta Gorda.  We are currently co-located with the Port Honduras Marine Reserve at the TIDE Station in the PHMR.  We are launching patrols from that location.  We started in January of this year and that is our short term plan.  We do have plans to establish a station in Punta Gorda for the Belize Coast Guard in order for us to be able to conduct extensive patrols in that area.  But for now we have been very successful along with TIDE.  We have confiscated numerous gill nets, just this weekend we’ve seized over sixty pounds of fisheries products in that area so we are patrolling in the area.  Our jurisdiction is from the coastal areas of Belize and along the littorals.  So our main effort and our operations are more maritime, we do not, the Belize Coast Guard does not patrol the Sarstoon River.”

 

Isani Cayetano

“In terms of what action is being taken or can be taken against illegal fishing or fishermen who enter Belizean waters unlawfully, what is being done?”

 

Commander Elton Bennett

“The immediate action is to seize the product, effect the arrest and hand them over to the fisheries department then to the nearest station which would be Punta Gorda and then the judicial process will take shape from there.  The products would be confiscated, the vessel would be confiscated and they would go through the court system.”

 

Isani Cayetano

“I know you mentioned earlier that the coast guard is not responsible for conducting riverine patrols, in the event or in cases where the Guatemalan military or their coastguard would enter into Belizean waters, what is the protocol or what is the measure taken by law enforcement on the Belizean side of the border against such incidents?”

 

Commander Elton Bennett

“I believe that it would be handled from with the Guatemalan military.”

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1 Response for “Guatemalan Fishermen and Soldiers In Belizean Waters, Coastguard Steps Up Patrol Measures”

  1. CEO says:

    You “believe” it would be handled by the Guatemalan?

    The question is what we should do about it? Your answer should have been something like our foreign affairs minister will write the Guatemalan government and file a formal complaint…Oh but ah just remember that if we do that we will make the Guatemalans mad at us…soh weh we should ah do bout it? Actually ah noh sure…

    Is this a joke or what? All that materila on his shoulders saying he is in charge and there is no protocol that can be stated how these offences are handled? Really?

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