Monday, July 15, 2024

Fishing allowed but only with a valid license, says Belize Coast Guard in San Pedro


On Saturday, August 15th during the presentation of the updated State of Emergency Statutory Instrument (SI), the Attorney General, Honourable Michael Peyrefitte said that the current lockdown in San Pedro Town will be extended until early September, and all forms of fishing (commercial and sustenance) would not be allowed. This triggered an outcry from islanders as many depend on fishing to provide food for their families amidst the current COVID-19 community spread on the island. Many community members, including local politicians, advocated for a change in this decision, pointing out that the updated SI allows fishing for livelihood and sustenance. On Sunday, August 16th, the San Pedro Town Council announced the lift of the ban via their Facebook page. However, the Belize Coast Guard on the island is only allowing persons with a valid fishing license to do so.

sustenance fishingThe San Pedro Sun reached out to Lieutenant John Diego overseeing operations in San Pedro. He briefly responded with a message that only persons with a valid fishing license would be allowed to fish. When asked about fishing off docks or beach areas, there was no response. Under the new amended SI, page 6, one of the clauses states that fishing for livelihood and sustenance is permitted, except for sport and leisure fishing. There is no mention of the need for a fishing license.

Residents on the island say the conflicting information has them hesitant to fish for food. Some shared that they were informed by the coast guard that if caught fishing out at sea without a license, they will be arrested. Additionally, the coast guard claimed that the National Oversight Committee and the head of the Ministry of National Security have ruled this as law.

Mayor Daniel Guerrero was made aware of the situation but did not comment on it. Islanders are once again seeking clarification and would like their local leaders to once again intervene for them and clarify the matter. The majority of island residents are without a job after COVID-19 destroyed the tourism industry. Some are being assisted by local feeding programs, while others try to feed their families by fishing.

With a total of 158 active cases, San Pedro continues to be the epicenter of the disease in Belize, and according to health authorities the numbers could increase even further. Since March, when the first cases emerged on the island and tourism disappeared, fishing became the main source of sustenance for many families. Thus, an extended lockdown without access to such a way of survival can negatively affect people through this health crisis.

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