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Jun 22, 2021

Belize Federation of Fishers and Others Condemn S.I. 57 of 2021

Statutory Instrument Number fifty-seven of 2021 may have been passed and slipped under the radar of most people, but not the fisher folk community who today, came out expressing their discontent with the access it gives to foreign nationals to fish within Belizean waters.  News Five’s Duane Moody reports.


Duane Moody, Reporting

Back in 2019, the U.D.P. administration issued legislation to exclude foreign nationals, who have obtained residency in Belize, from being eligible for commercial fishing licenses. Two years later, under a new P.U.P. government, the Ministry of Blue Economy reverses this through S.I. fifty-seven of 2021 which allows for the participation of permanent residents in the fishing industry of Belize. This has sparked outrage.


Dale Fairweather

Dale Fairweather, Fisherman

“If you bring in more people from across the border, how we will survive? When I started to fish, there was a lot less fisherman so we used to do good. But as the years went by, yo get more and more fishers and now I di ketch about a quarter of what I used to ketch so I know everybody yah di ketch less. And if you bring in more people, then we wah even ketch less.”


But the Ministry of Blue Economy says that these persons are being scape-goated for the overfishing of fish stocks in Belize.  According to a ministry release, permanent residents are not responsible; in fact, in the past, the number of licensed permanent residents did not exceed forty, while the fisher population in Belize is over three thousand four hundred. The ministry’s firm position is that permanent residents, who have met the legal requirements, should be afforded the opportunity to participate in the industry.


Andrew Usher

Andrew Usher, Fisherman

“My brother, we fishermen out there di kill one another for a lee piece of lobster ground. And if the weh di go on yah right now noh know that we wah have serious problem if Guatemala or Honduras or Mexico, we have them come fishing ina our water. We Belizean barely could get along with the lee bit a ground weh we have yah.”


Ricardo Casanova

Ricardo Casanova, Fisherman

“I sacrificed a lot. I just left net. We just accept the banning of net. Okay we love wi reef so much that we noh want these people from outside weh have no kinda respect for wi reef or respect for wi patch or respect fu we river mouths and dehn thing come and set net. So I take the sacrifice and left net. Yo hafto got prove of residency to get yo license. Dehn thing deh noh work. I know people weh got license right now weh live across the border. I know. I could show yo weh part dehn live across the border and dehn have license. Every time yo have wah election, yo see so much bus load a people come cross yah come vote. I mi done glad because they couldn’t get wah fishing license, now dehn could get wah fishing license; how you think I feel? Forty-eight years I di fishing.”


Nigel Martinez

Nigel Martinez, Director, Belize Federation of Fishers

“Right now we don’t know who these permanent residents people are and which area they will be given access to and that’s what these guys are concerned about. In 2019, we had lobbied with the then administration to ensure that we protect the benefits of our Belizean fishers. Now how can you tell me that a permanent resident can come to our jewel, state that they live here for six months and get access to our fishery, when we have our fishermen right here, right now and some of their kids can’t even access the fishery and unable to get a fisherfolk license. So we can’t accept that.”


But the Belize Federation of Fishers, who have since come out to condemn the enacting of the S.I., says that the reversal of the ban on permanent residents to obtain commercial fishing licenses occurred without consultation. So what’s the next step?


Nigel Martinez

“There are systems and structures that we believe should be in place in order to ensure that our fishers are treated fairly and we believe if we are given that opportunity to meet at the table to discuss these issues, we believe that we can address these guys’ problems. As it is right now, we believe that what the Minister and the Ministry of Blue Economy did without any type of consultation is unjust to these guys. We are asking the minister to ensure that he rescinds what he has done because S.I. 57 of 2021 is unfair; it’s unjust.”


Duane Moody for News Five.


When it comes to illegal fishing, the Ministry of Blue Economy says that it is a complex matter that requires a multi-prong approach to ensure its deterrence and elimination. There are concerns of illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing which the ministry is addressing in coordination with fisheries enforcement officers, the Belize Coast Guard and marine protected areas personnel.

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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