San Pedro chef spots fish fraud: prohibited triggerfish and parrotfish sold as grouper

Thursday, April 21st, 2022

Over the Easter holiday, fish was in high demand, and San Pedro Town restaurants had to find alternative sources to maintain their supplies. When well-known San Pedro Chef Jeanne Staines could not purchase fish from her local providers, she received an order of fillet from Belize City that contained suspected illegally harvested fish, such as triggerfish and parrotfish. The illegal product was disguised as grouper, with different skin patches attached with glue.

Chef Staines, who mans the popular Elvi’s Kitchen, said the skin patches were attached with what appeared to be Crazy Glue. This is a concern; not only can the glue contaminate the fish meat, but it is illegal to harvest and sell protected fish. As per law, a fillet is required to carry the skin tag to identify the type of fish. When Staines received the product, she inspected it, and to her shock, a good amount of the fish fillet in front of her was not snapper or grouper but protected species vital to ecosystems like the Belize Barrier Reef. Triggerfish and parrotfish are considered reef cleaners and are protected species in Belize. Fishing these species is strictly prohibited in the country. Staines is now trying to identify who exactly sent her the fraudulent fish.

Staines appeals to authorities like the Fisheries Department to monitor fisher-folks out at sea engaged in illegal fishing. While other fishers follow regulations, report their catch, and fish legal species, others have been targeting angel fish, trigger, and parrotfish who falsely sell the fillets under the name of legal fish. Consumers who are not familiar with the different kinds of fish may not know the difference. According to Staines, one of the easiest fish to identify is parrotfish because it has a strong, unique odor, and its meat is somewhat fluorescent. The other types of fish, like triggerfish and angel, are more challenging to identify if you are not in the fish market.

The public is encouraged to report any illegal fishing or fish fraud signs. Consumers should only purchase genuine marine products from trustful sources. Additionally, if you suspect any irregularities call the Fisheries Department at 224-4552. In San Pedro, reports can also be made to the Hol Chan Marine Reserve by calling the phone number 226-2247


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