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Dec 7, 2009

Jamaican fishermen want to fish in Punta Gorda

Story PictureThe docking of five Jamaican vessels layered with traps and other fishing gear is quickly becoming a controversy in southern Belize. On Saturday the boats docked in the sea near Punta Gorda. The local fishermen are concerned over a possible depletion of the fish stock in the area. According to Fisheries Administrator, Beverly Wade, the foreign company wants to conduct deep sea fishing in Belizean waters, but they have not been given a license.

Beverly Wade, Fisheries Administrator
“There is some agreement between Rio Grande and this Jamaican Fishing company to allow for some foreign investors to come and fish here in Belizean waters.”

Marion Ali
“And can that be allowed? Were they given permits?”

Beverly Wade
“No, you could have a joint venture agreement with anybody you want really and Government of Belize, the Ministry Agriculture and Fisheries and the Fisheries Department can’t tell you, as a private sector, what you can agree to do with another person. But you would want that what you’re agreeing upon in a joint venture, is something that is permissible and what has happened is that they have not received any permit from us to allow one; foreign vessels to fish in Belize and two; for foreign individuals to participate in fishing activities in Belize. So when we learnt about the content of this joint venture agreement, which I think was in October, we made it clear to them that most of what is in the joint venture agreement, we did not have any reservations with, with regards to their infrastructure and the help that will come to Rio Grande, but we were very clear to them that we were not in a position to permit nor license any vessels or individuals to fish in our Belizean waters. I’ve been told by Customs Department that the vessel is in country but they have not been given permission to offload anything and the vessels are in port. We currently don’t have the management regime or framework in place to properly manage it or monitor it. So we have said that it has to go through some consultations naturally, with the various stakeholders; not only the fishers, but also the conservation organizations, other management organizations and even government. And we’ve said that it has to go through due process because Government of Belize does have a strategic objective, which is to look at those under-utilized species that we don’t traditionally fish, which is our deep water stocks. So we told them that some discussions have to happen to say where these vessels, if we were to allow something like this to happen, where they would fish and how they would be able to carry out their activities which we don’t presently have and that would take some time to develop properly. Those vessels are moored in Port, they have not moved and they are not going to be allowed to move because Customs hasn’t given them clearance to conduct any activities in Belize.”

It is also known that the foreign company intends to help upgrade the fishing infrastructure of the local company, Rio Grande Cooperative, with whom it shares a fishing agreement.

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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