EU Supports Belize’s Fisheries Sector with Equipment and Training
The European Union is supporting Belize’s fisheries sector by increasing the country’s capacity to test agricultural products to ensure they meet international standards for export. The EU, through the 11th European Development Fund (EDF) Sanitary and Phytosanitary (SPS) Measures Project is providing technical training to officers from the Central Investigation Laboratory (CIL) of the Belize Agricultural Health Authority (BAHA). On September 8, the EU handed over a Microwave Sample Digestion System, laboratory testing kits, diagnostic tools, and inspection equipment to upgrade CIL’s fisheries monitoring and testing facilities. The equipment will allow the CIL to perform tests relating to environmental and residue monitoring, which will assist in raising the country’s standards for fisheries products for export. The equipment and training are geared toward improving Belize’s regional and international trade of fish and fish products in the areas of inspection, import/export certification, diagnostics, risk assessment, surveillance, and reporting. The EU noted that improving Belize’s ability to meet international export standards will also have a positive impact on the private sector at all stages of the fisheries value chain, including fishermen, fishing organizations, fish processors, exporters, and exporters’ associations, and other national and regional private sector fishing associations and entities. Speaking at the handing over of the equipment Aniceto Rodriguez Ruiz, Head of Cooperation, Delegation of the European Union to Jamaica, Belize, and The Bahamas, said that the overall project will promote safer protection of fisheries and agricultural products for domestic consumption as well as exports. Rodriguez Ruiz added quote “These tools will enable Belize to conduct accurate and reliable testing of agricultural and fisheries products, identify potential risks, and ensure compliance with international standards and regulations. The equipment will also contribute to the prevention and control of pests and diseases, safeguarding the health of consumers and ensuring the sustainability of Belize’s agricultural and fisheries sector,” end of quote. Also speaking at the event was Dr Natalie Gibson, Laboratory Administrator/Deputy Director of Food Safety Services at the CIL, who said that the initial plans are to use the equipment to test for substances such as mercury, lead and cadmium in fish and fishery products. She explained that these metals can harm the health of consumers when they contaminate food or water at unsafe levels. The CIL then look towards broader applications of the equipment to test in other areas. The project is being executed by the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA) through collaboration with the Caribbean Regional Fisheries Mechanism (CRFM).