Fishermen traditionally construct makeshift shacks on islands, private and public to sleep for the days they stay at sea. It is a common practice. However, some brave individuals decided to construct permanent housing and began to squat on an island known as Coco Solo or to locals in the south as Sandbore. Captain Elton Bennett, the Vice Commandant of the Coastguard told us about the eviction proceedings that started last weekend.
Captain Elton Bennett Vice COmmandant Belize Coast Guard: “The area of interest is the southern waters and the specific island that you are asking about is what we refer to as Coco Solo island. That is the operation that we know. The squatters may refer to it as San Boar because in nature that is exactly what it is. It is a sandbar and nothing more than that and since mid last year we had approached those individuals of that island and asked them to leave. You are squatting and you are continuing to develop on an a sand bar and it started off with a traditional fishing camp of which we recognized the need for fishermen to be able to camp and conduct fishing operations but because that fishing camp has now become permanent in its design we went to the island and told them listen you need to move or you need to get permission from the Government to continue this operation. They failed to do so and we approached the Lands Department and informed them of that situation. We have received an official enforcement order from the Lands Department of which we will send to the lawyers of those individuals for them to cease operation at that location and to refrain from any further development of the island so now we are in the phase of allowing them to remove whatever equipment or investment they had on the island. Coast Guard reports started five years ago as a small scale operation. Three years ago they started to really develop the island and we also have to look at the environmental impact of what they are doing because they are establishing permanent structures that impacts the way the Marine life grows out of that location. Between three to five years is that time period that we have really seen occupation of that specific island. The official warnings really came last year, mid last year. We would visit all of these fishing camps and we try to find out who owns the island and to what level of operations they are conducting but in this case we officially informed them mid last year for them to remove.”
The Belize Coast Guard Service coordinates its activities with its two sister agencies, the Belize Defence Force and the Belize Police Department.