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Feb 9, 2021

Piracy at Sea – Fishermen are Robbed at Gunpoint!

There is a spike in piracy at sea. Since mid-January and as recent as this morning, fishers have been the target of armed robbers. The thieves have been taking advantage of their vulnerability and robbing them of their products and their engines. It is a perennial problem that law enforcement agencies have been trying to tackle. Today, News Five found out more.


Duane Moody, Reporting

As early as six this morning in the area of South Water Caye in southern Belize, after spending several days on the waters, a group of fishermen returning to the city with their catch was robbed at gunpoint. The thieves took their cell phones, the boat engines, and their fish products. It is the most recent incident of a series of piracy at sea. Investigators believe that the attacks are orchestrated by criminal elements from the south. Commander Gregory Soberanis of the Belize Coast Guard says that there has been an uptick of these crimes at sea since mid-January as the lobster season is coming to a close on February fifteenth. 


Gregory Soberanis

Commander Gregory Soberanis, Acting Commandant, Belize Coast Guard

“Coastal piracy or armed robberies at sea, specifically in our southern sector. Over the past few weeks, we had three incidents that have occurred. The first one occurred about three to four weeks ago; the incident was reported to us and we responded with an aggressive deployment of our patrols to the area. The second incident occurred on Saturday; again along with Fisheries [Department], we were able to respond to that scene and we escorted the fishermen back to Belize City where we were able to conduct interviews with them and get an idea of what transpired at sea. The most recent incident occurred this morning; the perpetrators were bold enough to do it approximately just around 6:15, thereabout this morning.”


The fishermen are primarily from Sarteneja and would spend days at sea before returning home. Luckily onboard their vessel was a monitoring system that was used to signal to authorities that they were in distress. This feature, very likely, saved their lives because the Belize Coast Guard responded quickly.


Valdemar Andrade

Valdemar Andrade, Executive Director, TASA

“I was advised on Sunday that there was an incident in the South Water Caye area. I don’t have all the details, but we know that this happens from time to time out at sea. And of course the fishers are a target because that’s their work; that’s what they do and we have always been concerned about how we can help with our systems. If the fishers press a button for ten seconds, we are able to know their exact location. We do know that there is an emergency and generally, depending on their location, can get to them within an hour or two. That is what aided in this incident. So we were able to tell right away and on Sunday’s event, we were able to rescue them fairly quickly with resources from the Fisheries Department, the Coast Guard.”


The frightening experiences have been documented by law enforcement agencies, including the Belize Coast Guard and the Belize Police Department. In these incidents, we are told that many fishermen are injured and survive the ordeal. However, there is still a level of fear. Commander Soberanis, however, says that they are working to keep fisherfolk safe. 


Commander Gregory Soberanis

“As it relates to the first incident, we were able to locate nine individuals who we believe to have been involved with that particular incident. They were all detained and handed over to the police in Dangriga. We were able to seize four assets where they were charged for various violations, port violations.  I definitely want to assure the fisherfolk community that the Belize Coast Guard, working along with the Police Department, Fisheries and our key partners in our maritime domain will make every effort to locate the perpetrators of these crimes and we will stop at nothing to ensure that justice is served.”


Duane Moody for News Five.

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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