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Dec 11, 2009

Min. of Agriculture babbles on Jamaican fishing companies

Story PictureBoats belonging to two Jamaican fishing companies with Belizean counterparts have been spotted in the southern waters. PG Fishing Limited and Rainforest Limited are both seeking licenses for deep sea fishing for export. When word got out, it started a firestorm because the local community and others in the industry are fiercely opposed to the venture that can potentially put the local cooperatives out of business. Following today’s House meeting, the Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries, Rene Montero, could not provide a straight answer when he was confronted about the controversial issue.

Rene Montero, Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries
“As far as I am concerned, they have to follow due process before they can even be considered for a license. They have to apply for a fishing license before we allow them to stay in our waters. We do not have in place a framework for deep sea fishing so until then, then we probably consider it. But we do not have a framework for us to allow any vessel—be it Jamaican or Venezuelan—to allow people to fish in our deep sea waters. We don’t have a framework.”

Jules Vasquez, Channel 7
“So at this time there can be no permission?”

Rene Montero
“There can be no permission.”

Jose Sanchez
“What about Rainforest Seafood? There asking for fifteen years tax free. They want to build a one point five million dollar facility. They plan to have an output twice of the other fishing cooperatives. Is your office along with this?”

Rene Montero
“Well, the rainforest seafood came and consulted with us that that they want to invest in Belize; that’s all. We have not made any formal agreement; we have not received any project proposal from them.”

Jules Vasquez
“However, I’ve seen a paper, a confidential paper with the project outline and they have a projected start up date of January.”

Rene Montero
“Well, as far as I’m concerned that has to follow due process before we can even consider it. It has to go through our technical people in the fisheries, then it has to go to the Fishes Advisory Board and then to Cabinet. As far as I am concerned, my understanding is that they came with a tourist license, they never come with a fishing license. As far as I am concerned, they will leave the country, they must leave the country. We will not allow them to fish.”

Jose Sanchez
“But how about rainforest? Rainforest could wipe out the five fishing cooperatives.”

Rene Montero
“But rainforest is not operating in Belize. They came only to consult with us. They can project anything but as far as we’re concerned we have not given them a fishing license.”

This evening the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries issued a clarification saying that since the PG Fisheries Ltd had not provided a project proposal, they have been informed that the license would not be issued. Their vessel has been impounded and is preparing to return to Jamaica. The release, however, was mum on the other company, Rainforest Limited.

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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