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Jun 9, 2004

Fishing coop adds imports to product line

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It may remind viewers of bringing coals to Newcastle or better yet, sand to Sandhill… but it’s true – Belize, the home of some of the world’s most delectable seafood, is now importing fish. But while that development seems like a step backward, the reality is a bit more complicated.

Janelle Chanona, Reporting

According to experts in the fishing industry, over the last four years there has been a decline in fin fish production, especially in the supply of processed seafood.

While they support legislation put in place to ensure sustainable development of the industry, local fisheries cooperatives like the National Fishermen’s Producers Coop, say the demand for products, such as grouper fillets, have put them in embarrassing positions. They say they’ve now been forced to cast their nets on the international market to satisfy demand.

Charles Heusner, Chair., Natl. Fishermen’s Producers Coop.

“Weather, method of fishing being used in the past, those were contributing factors. What we have seen is to try and alleviate some of the pressures because certain guidelines have to be in place, especially with fin fish. One of them will probably have to be a size limit which is not in Belize, so for the future development of the industry, some guidelines have to be in place. But to fill the vacuum for supply we’ve seen it necessary to import. The fishing cooperatives have always practiced good management, but not all fishermen are members of fishing cooperatives, so it?s a delicate balance you are dealing with.”

The partnership between National and Paradise Fisheries Bahamas will have foreign delicacies like sliced salmon, swordfish steak and raw oysters delicately balanced on plates alongside Belize?s gourmet lobsters, shrimp, and snappers. Restaurateurs say the consistent supply will lend itself to creativity in the kitchen.

Chef Bob, Restaurateur

“They do come in wanting local products, they come in asking for fresh seafood, fresh lobster, things that are available in Belize, that should be on a regular basis, sometimes it’s tough to get these things. But you know variety is the spice of life is what they say, so even though we can offer local Belizean products, it?s also nice to be able to offer other things which make for a more interesting menu and more varied taste.”

Heusner says the move by his cooperative is not to edge out the man with the hand line in the water, but to ensure their survival in a dynamic industry.

Charles Heusner

“What National is after is to promote trade. This company buys approximately ninety percent of National’s production for the year, so trade isn’t one sided you know. This is just a natural process for development.”

To promote this next link in the food chain, at its second annual Seafood Show the coop held a cooking contest for local chefs using both home-grown and foreign products. Seven chefs participated, but Jason Campo of Harbour View Restaurant won with this serving of Sesame Sea Crusted Salmon Fillet with Mustard Brown Sugar glaze.

Second place went to Patrick Rodriguez of Smoky Mermaid, while Jenny Staine of Elvi’s Kitchen in San Pedro took third. The competition was judged by Chef Rob of the Radisson and Chef Bob of Chef Bob’s Bar and Grill.

Viewers please note: This Internet newscast is a verbatim transcript of our evening television newscast. Where speakers use Kriol, we attempt to faithfully reproduce the quotes using a standard spelling system.

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