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May 20, 2022

Ministry of Blue Economy Holds Public Meeting with Sarteneja Fishermen

The discussion continued today in Sarteneja over a fisheries regulation that was passed into law in March of this year for a four point five ounce lobster tail weight as the approved threshold, up from four ounces. There was also an increase in the escape gap size of the lobster traps.  And this has not been sitting well with thousands of fisher folks across the country, who says that their livelihood is being threatened by the new law. Today, the Ministry of Blue Economy traveled to Sarteneja to meet with hundreds of fishermen who were not too happy. News Five’s Duane Moody reports.


Duane Moody, Reporting

It was a heated discussion today in Sarteneja Village, as hundreds of local fishermen converged in the village for a public meeting with representatives from the Fisheries Department and the Ministry of Blue Economy. The fishermen were up in arms, claiming that their livelihood is being threatened by a recent amendment to the fisheries law. Daniel Andrade is a fisherman for twenty-four years and he says the move will see them lose forty percent of their annual income.


Daniel Andrade

Daniel Andrade, Fisherman

“This four point five will benefit us, the fishers, because in two to three months, this four will reach to four point five. The point is how could this be when lobsters migrate from one country to the other. And this is not something that I am saying. You can do your research if you want, and I have seen it too. Where I work for so many years from month to month, you can see different types of lobsters and different colors of lobsters. We are seeing that this four to four point five is not beneficial for us; it is going to be beneficial for who? I am not sure. This is will affect us not in eight percent as our minister of blue economy is saying; that we are going to be affected by eight percent. We are going to be affected by more than forty percent of our income.”


Ovel Leonardo

Ovel Leonardo, Activist

“For years I have been saying that I fight for this four ounce in 2003 and OSPECA respects Belize and I am proud to say that I was a part of that because that would impact our country. Our country is totally different than all the other countries in Central America region. Whenever regulation pass it hurts the fishers so badly and I don’t know what is taking place. There are people who believe in putting laws and regulations without consulting and that’s not fair.”


The issue goes back to 2009, when the then U.D.P. Administration, signed a binding Regional Lobster Regulations document with OPESCA, the Organization of Fisheries and Agriculture in Central America. There was pushback by the fishers then and the issue was delayed for over a decade until this year when the regional organization called out Belize for its non-compliance. C.E.O. Kennedy Carrillo of the Ministry of Blue Economy says that while it was ratified over a decade ago, it would appear that some fishers are only just learning of the regulation, despite representation from cooperatives on the advisory council.


Kennedy Carrillo

Kennedy Carrillo, C.E.O., Ministry of Blue Economy

“We must engage the communities, we must engage the experts and we must engaged the owners of the industry. That is fully understood. We are not here to bombard with science or to speak about regulations that are already in place. We are here to say let us discuss with you, educate us; show us what are your needs, your priorities. And I think that when we started this process in Caye Caulker, we saw a successful resolution because one of the most salient outcomes of these discussions is a lack of proper representation of the fishing community. You have the department and the ministry; you have the cooperatives who are the ones that sit on the fisheries advisory council which is the highest mechanism for the decision making; those are the ones that advise the minister on the decisions that need to be made. And so these cooperatives, four of them – well two main cooperatives and the Chunox and Hopkins sit on the advisory council as representatives of the fishers sector.”


At the end of the public meeting, the ministry agreed to delay the inevitable for one year so that consultations can be done in more detail with the fishing community.


Daniel Andrade

“There is no solutions, there is no kind of help for us to overcome this catastrophe when it comes to our monies that we will be collecting every trip.”


Ovel Leonardo

“Maybe it might be a compromise from him and he says that he will meet with us and we will fight it. I could promise the nation.”


Andre Perez

Andre Perez, Minister of Blue Economy

“I’m not running away from anything.  We have to speak the truth and we have to take the bull by the horns and that is what we are doing and leading in a way and letting them know the regulations have to happen. It’s not now, it’s when. It is coming, it is binding. Another important thing that we need to understand is that it is binding; we can be cited, we can be sanctioned. We don’t want to do that. That would be catastrophic.”


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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