While the Guatemalan Armed Forces are consistent with their intimidation tactics at the Sarstoon when it relates to access for Belizeans, the Guatemalan fishers are persistent in engaging in illegal fishing in Belize’s waters in the south. Their incursions at sea and inland have costed Belize millions of dollars in resources and the Belize Network of Non-Governmental Organizations has issued a statement on the obscene loss of finances and the undermining of national efforts made toward sustainable fisheries. Senator for NGOs Osmany Salas says it was important for BNN to highlight the situation and its effect on the national economy.
Osmany Salas – Senator: “Our Belize network of NGOs is very concerned about the illegal fishing from across the border, primarily from Guatemala in our waters which has been costing us many millions of dollars and so these states are undermining our efforts at sustainable fishing so a couple of weeks ago the reporter published a report. What they reported was very alarming, our network represents several well established Conservation Management Organizations. NGOs that actually co-manage Marine Parks, protected areas and are at the front lines of trying to deter illegal fishing primarily from across the border. It is a recurring challenge, a daily challenge so we felt it important to express our concern, the impact it is having on our national economy and we are primarily focusing in this press release on the illegal fishing and unregulated fishing of sharks and fin-fish and the effect that this has in our national economy. In our release, we state that it is very important that our authorities conduct the type of patrols that are needed, regular consistent patrols, especially in our southern waters. It is critical that we have a regular presence and not only during what we consider normal working hours eight to five but around the clock. It is extremely important that we invest the resources that are necessary to have a regular and permanent presence in our waters.”
In a recent interview with Minister of State for Fisheries, Omar Figueroa, there is action being taken on behalf of the Government, starting with the non-renewal of licenses for permanent residents in the south, who are primarily Guatemalans.
Omar Figueroa – Minister of State: “The decision has been taken that the current licenses that the permanent residence have which is about thirty-eight licenses will be allowed to expire so it won’t be canceled, it just won’t be renewed at the end of the term. A cry was passed that allowed them to obtain a fishing license, it has a lot to do with the challenges we face with enforcement in the south. We believe that has been part of the challenges that is based right there and so we believe that has created some challenges for us in the southern waters so the decision has nothing to do with Belizeans nationals.”
This most recent investigative report estimates that at present between 100,000 – 200,000 pounds per year of all types of fish, including protected species, are being exported to Guatemala