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Jun 16, 1999

Lobster fishermen bring in the catch

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You waited so patiently and now it’s time, lobster season is open. But while those who can afford it enjoy this delicacy without thinking much about it, catching lobster is big business. And this week the fishermen’s cooperatives are bustling with activity as the catch comes rolling in. News Five visited both the Northern and National Coops today to get the low down on lobster.

It may only be the second day of the season but Belize’s gold is being hauled in by the mother lode. And at twenty-five dollars a pound anyone could agree that this export is very valuable.

Jose Perez, Acting Fisheries Administrator

“Lobster has always been the mainstay of the sector. Last year the sector was 33 million dollars and lobster contributed 22 million dollars.”

The National Fishermen Producers Cooperative today logged in over ten thousand pounds from their sister coops at Caribena in San Pedro and Placencia, a number considerably smaller than previous years. Their Quality Assurance Manager and fishermen in general fear that our gold is being mined out.

Armenio Verde, Fisherman

“Because a lot more fishermen are coming out. Now a lot of people go to the cayes and go into diving. One time there were about one thousand fishermen; now they have three thousand. More than that, more fishermen are coming to dive and that is why it is so scarce.”

Jamie Velasquez, Quality Assurance Manager

“Over exploitation has affected the industry. The over harvesting of undersized lobsters, the not caring much about handling products when out at sea and so on but over exploitation is the major problem out there.”

Velasquez also believes that this problem — although a major one — can be controlled. If it isn’t, the future is not bright for the industry.

Jaime Velasquez

“Stricter regulation, more regulation, fully enforce the regulation. I think fisheries need more staff and more financing. Without this I don’t feel that we will be able to survive for the next ten or fifteen years.”

But fisheries officials believe that they are doing their best with the available resources to deter fishermen from catching lobster out of season.

Jose Perez

“We stepped up our patrols and initially we made some arrests but the word got out that we had increased our presence especially in the southern waters and we had very, very few cases.”

Although the fisheries officers may be able to curb the amount of illegal fishing, Mother Nature wasn’t too kind to legitimate fishermen this year. Hurricane Mitch’s dangerous flirt with Belize left many fishermen without their traps, or their lobster, in the middle of the season.

Armenio Verde

“Mitch damaged lots of the sea: damaged the rocks, damaged the flowers. The flowers are stuck in the rocks where the crayfish used to come to eat.”

Q: “Did you lose any of your pots?”

Armenio Verde

“Yes, I lost all. I lost all of my pots; I lost all.”

Martin Carasco, Fisherman

“Last year we lost about two hundred traps because of Mitch and we are still working on it. But we hope that this year will be better and we thank God for having us save a little bit here.”

Armenio Verde

“If a next hurricane comes, because Mitch did not come to Belize — it came close and it affected us — so if a hurricane comes we are going in; the lobster will done.”

But while neither the fishermen nor the Fisheries Department can control the ravages of a hurricane, they can control their own activities. New regulations are being established to prevent harvesting before the beginning of the season on June fifteenth and the Fisheries Department has stepped up its educational campaign to protect lobsters during off-season. Arreini Palacio for News Five.

You can enjoy Belize’s lobster from now until the 14th of February. To celebrate the start of the season Caye Caulker is holding a lobsterfest on the 25th, 26th and 27th of June. Placencia is having a similar event on the 26th and 27th.


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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