One constant complaint that comes from Belizeans following their visit on the Sarstoon River has to do with illegal fishing in Belizean territory by Guatemalan nationals. This has been the cry from activist, Wil Maheia for a number of years. Today Maheia told us that the illegal fishing continues in the area unabated.
“As you know gill nets are illegal in Belize, well not illegal in Belize but in certain areas, at the river mouth, near the shorelines, near communities so that is an illegal activity that is being done daily by the Guatemalans. We went there on Friday we went to the Sarstoon river and these people were out there about ten of them they were setting gillnets, illegally fishing and this was within close proximity of the base. I have not seen them making contact with the Guatemalan fishers but I see the Guatemalan fishers pass in front of the Forward Operating base, come into Belize, conduct illegal fishing and just like the Belizean laws do not apply to Guatemalans.”
Maheia added that contrary to expectations, there has not been a slow down in the activities despite the fact that a forward operating base was constructed in the area.
“Belizeans do sustainable fishing in that area while the Guatemalans are fishing it unsustainably and illegally. They enter Belize they don’t clear customs or any checkpoints, they come in they fish and they go back and this is very unsustainable fishing. Using gill nets at the front of the river mouths, along the shore lines I was hoping that since the Forward Operating base was there that all these illegal activities would have cut back. Apparently nothing has happened. I would like to encourage the government and the fisheries department to patrol that area. Now that they’ve established a forward operating base you would think that, when they had this big grandiose opening the Minister did say that they would begin to enforce the fishing regulations in that area and so far nothing has been done, it seems that the fishing regulation only applies to Belizeans because we can’t go there and use gillnets. The mesh size of the nets they are using is illegal as well, it’s against the laws of Belize to use those small mesh sizes so there are illegal activities all around, illegal gillnetting ,illegal mesh size, illegal locations where they set these nets and Guatemalans just have free reign into our territory.”
Maheia’s added that his latest encounter with illegal Guatemalan fishermen took place last Friday.