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Fisherman charged over $17,000 for illegal conch

Two fishermen were busted with illegal conch, southeast of Channel Caye on Wednesday, July 3.  Fisheries Enforcement officers were on patrol and encountered the men in their fishing vessel along with eight hundred and seventy-four conch.  The conch season has been closed for just over two months as the Fisheries Department had indicated that they had met their quota two months early.  Fisheries Enforcement Officer, Hampton Gamboa, spoke to the media.

Hampton Gamboa – Fisheries Enforcement Officer: “On July 3rd officers were on routine patrol in the southern part of our country. These are officers from the Punta Gorda branch of our enforcement unit and while officers were approaching the area  Southeast Channel Caye which is basically located East of Placencia for reference, close to the reef area they observed two gentlemen in two dories harvesting or basically fishing. Upon further reaching nearby they observed fishermen throwing stuff in the water. The officer went to the immediate area and retrieved a crocus bag with what appears to be conch. Upon further checking of their main vessels, the skiff that they were fishing out of, officers found a large amount of conch on the vessel. Conch season is closed in Belize until September 30th so when officers concluded their check of the total quantity of conch it amounted to 874 individual conches that were found with these two individuals in their possession. These two individuals are known fishermen from the area three, area four in the country because we have separated the entire country into six portions of which the area they were found in. In front of Placencia is considered to be in the area three vicinity so therefore they were arrested and charged. They were detained and everything, their tackle, their gears, and their vessel were brought in and was ceased.”

According to Gamboa, the fishermen that were caught had plans to sell the conch across the border. He told us why the department thought so, and also what will be done with the conch.

Hampton Gamboa – Fisheries Enforcement Officer: “In Belize, the average Belizean will not purchase unprocessed conch so therefore it is suggested because our neighboring countries particularly Honduras and Guatemala they do purchase conch that is just removed from the shell in an unprocessed state. Prior to what they were found within their dories and then in their vessel and in this type of state it just predicts or just informs us that it is clearly something that they will probably take across the border rather than bring to mainland Belize for purchasing. These individuals are well known in the south to be cross border traversing on a regular basis. The conch that is being confiscated, they also were deemed property and product of the Government of Belize, for the Fisheries Administrator to dispose of using her discretion. These types of things in this type of states would cause the Department finance because we will have to try to get those cleaned before we can get them to feeding programs which is the ultimate expectations of these products.”

Both fishermen were taken before the court and one of the men, Bartolo Jimenez, pleaded guilty and was fined five hundred dollars in court yesterday.  He was also taxed twenty dollars per conch. The total fine amounts to $17,480. The vessel and gear that were seized are now property of the Government of Belize.///////