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May 10, 2022

Amendment to Fisheries Regulations Causes Stir among Fisher-folks

The Department of Fisheries has updated the Fisheries Regulations ahead of the 2022 season, and a community of fishermen is not happy about the changes. Those amendments which took effect on March first, 2022 includes a change of the tail weight from four ounces to four and a half ounces, as well as an increase in the escape gap size of the lobster trap to above two inches, and the specification of the number of traps allowed per fishermen, per fishing vessel. A group, consisting of fisher-folks from Caye Caulker, Chunox, Copper Bank, Sartaneja, Rio Grande, Placencia Villages, and San Pedro Town, via a press release, says the new regulations threatens their livelihood. They argue that lobsters bigger than four and a half ounces are rear in Belizean waters, and as a result their catch will be reduced to twenty-five percent of previous years’ haul. But, the Department of Fisheries says the new regulations have been long in the making. According to Rigoberto Quintana, the Acting Fisheries Administrator, Belize signed a binding Regional Lobster Regulations document in 2009 with OPESCA, which required countries to make these legislative changes. A decade later, in 2019, Belize was still not in compliance with the binding document.

 

Rigborto Quintana

Rigborto Quintana, Acting Fisheries Administrator

“We are a part of the Organization of Fisheries and Agriculture in Central America. Whatever we sign at the Ministerial level becomes binding for Belize. Part of those regulations is that Belize had to harmonize the closed season, which we had done over the past two years. These last two fishing season we have harmonized those from the first of March to the end of June. That also required for us to increase the size of lobster, regulate the number of traps to be allowed for fishers and vessels, also to look at other measures including the size of the escape gaps for traps. That led to that. So, in 2018, 2019, which Belize had not complied then, OPESCA wrote a letter to our government saying, you know what let’s review why you have not implemented these regulations. So, Belize requested an extension to 2019 to implement some of these measures in place. We have had these ongoing discussions, especially at the levels of cooperatives and some of the fishers. June last year, we had these discussions again with the main exporters, which is Northern National to say you know what, let us move forward with this and let us do it for the next fishing season. That is why we passed that law last year, and the regulations come into force the first of March. They are in effect now.”


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