Today, the Fisheries Department announced that its offices in Belize City and Punta Gorda will be closed and that fishing activities will not be permitted outside of the declared curfew hours. This means that fisher folks will only be allowed to carry out fishing activities within 5 am and 8 pm. In speaking with some fishermen, they explained to us that this might cause some problems for them as they usually prepare for their fishing trips during the night. Some explained that fishing at night or at dawn is the best time for them.
Sebastian Nunez, Fisherman: “I came down to the fish market and I see the pain that the fishermen are in, not like feeling pain but the pain that they are not making the money because they don’t have the customers to come out and buy because even the customers are not making the money because a lot of people got laid off from their jobs so the fishermen is not selling the fish to make the gas money back. Enough of them go out and not even the gas money they make back so I know and I can feel the pain that they are feeling because they can’t go out the next day. They have to try to save their fish, not even ice some of them can buy back to put their fish to last the other day so I know they’re feeling the pinch. So the coronavirus measures right now I wouldn’t say they’re raping the country but it’s causing hurt countrywide. You have some of the fishermen, most of the fishermen move by the tide and they move by the moon. Some of the fishermen go and camp because some days you go to fish and they don’t catch any fish; they go out by dark with the moon and they camp. So if an effect comes in now that they can’t fish at certain hours at night so they will can’t camp so if it doesn’t happen today they have to come in and try to make it happen tomorrow – that is a real effect on them because as I said if they’re not catching the fish to sell and make back the gas money how could you come in from camp and go out the next day if you can’t camp? “
Another fisherman explained to us that business has been slow since they announced the first COVID-19 case in Belize and that this curfew might make things harder.
Shaquille Turton, Fisherman: “Business is kind of slow due to the change of climate and people not wanting to come out and see the fish, people want to keep their distance. We have camps that we have to take care of so if we can’t go out there at night to look after our camps maybe people will break in and do different sorts of things and then we will lose.”
Reporter: How will that work if you can’t go there?
Shaquille Turton, Fisherman: “Well we can’t go overnight so everyday we will go out and make sure everything is safe and everything is in control and order.”
The government also announced that the Ministry of Fisheries, Forestry, the Environment and Sustainable Development offices will also be closed to the public effective April 2 until further notice but will continue to provide online services.