Conch Shell Bay fishermen say regulations are without consultation – Love FM


The new fishing regulations, which came into effect at the beginning of March, are of great concern to anglers across the country. We reported opposition to the new rules from the Caye Caulker and Corozal District communities. According to Albert Area Representative Tracy Taegar-Panton, fishermen who operate in Belize City’s Conch Shell Bay are also unhappy. She says they worry about their ability to support their families and the lack of counselling. She explained during Friday’s House meeting.

Tracy Panton, Area Representative, Albert: There is a concern that has been expressed to me, and I’m sure it can be addressed. With the lack of consultation that took place in the adjustments that were made to harvesting the lobster tails. Going from a 3 inch tail to a 3.25 tail I believe is an inch tail. As the fishermen explained to me, this is not a negligible increase. In fact, this represents a relative increase of 8 and 8.3% and although I think the premise of this decision is quite well understood. The problem is that the new policy is being implemented with minimal consultation. It is set up at a time when they themselves are unable to make the necessary adjustments to find an alternative to their lobster fishery. What the fishermen explained to me and I’m not a fisherman myself so I can only take their word for it is that harvesting the lobster tails at 3.25 inches will be the whole two weeks of the lobster season and so it’s really a blow when it comes down to their ability to earn a living, maintain their livelihoods and make a living in this industry”.

She also called for alternatives to lobster tail farming, given the new regulations, and also asked the government to explore opportunities to help all fishers during the transition period. She also reiterated that fishing communities want to know the science, which is factored into the new regulations. However, for the Minister of the Blue Economy, André Perez, these regulations are not so new and simply that the implementation of the regime has only just begun.

Andre Perez, Minister of Blue Economy and Civil Aviation: When you refer to new policies, for the record, these are not new policies, these are policies that were signed at the time in 2009 under your administration. So these are not new policies. What is slow to come is the implementation of this policy and this is also something that is a good thing. This is something that we followed that we should be harmonized with the region. As you all know, we are part of OSPESCA which is part of the SICA regional body here in Central America and the Dominican Republic. So we continued to consult with the fishermen and until last year they were asking us to keep the fort for another year, for another year. But because of the delicate and critical situation that is the lobster industry, and the conch and by extension the stone crab industry, it is time that we implemented and in terms of consultation, this has been done over the years and particularly there in Ambergris Caye and Caye Caulker. We have the documents to show that since 2013 people were being consulted knowing that this year we all knew we had to meet and implement. Now, as a responsibility of our fisheries department, we should indeed do this consultation and not just the consultation, but inform them of what needs to be implemented. The policies are in place and also a call to responsibility for all the cooperatives which they have also unanimously supported. Again, it is part of their responsibility to share all of this information with their members. Now on the size of the lobster we want to make it clear that again according to the policies and regulations that we have signed it is binding we need to increase it and for good reason . And also I want to mention more about the weight of the lobster tails which ranges from 4 oz and we say 4 ½ oz. Now, if I can clarify and go into more detail, the acceptable weight size that is found in the North, North America or the United States in particular is 5 oz. and in Europe they allow 4.5 and under or 4 oz. So all of that is taken into consideration and some of those little lobsters are exported to Europe. Now, member, I agree with you that maybe we need to bring more than information to you, the people in your area. I am taking this and this week we are embarking on an ambitious plan to hold meetings in Caye Caulker and Sarteneja and certainly I can consult with you on a time and date to visit your people and talk to them.

The date for these consultations with Conch Shell Bay has not yet been determined.

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