Monday, July 15, 2024

New regulations introduced for fishing stone crab; season established

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A set of regulations regarding the harvesting of the Florida Stone Crab was introduced by the Belize Fisheries Department and Ministry of Blue Economy on Tuesday, August 16th. The new rules also explain that for the first time, there will be a season for stone crab from October 1st through June 30th. No harvesting/fishing for stone crab should occur now; however, the fisheries department is providing a grace period until September 1st for all purchased products.
The new requirements for the Florida Stone Crab caught some islanders off guard as they claimed not to be adequately informed. The fisheries department stated that consultations were held in January this year in Caye Caulker and San Pedro Town. The department added that a follow-up meeting took place with fisherfolks in June but only in Caye Caulker. However, some fishers were not aware of the release regarding the regulations and said it caught them by surprise.
The regulations are part of a new Statutory Instrument No. 108 of 2022. The new legislation regarding stone crab demands the following:
1. A person who intends to fish or export stone crab shall apply to the Fisheries Administrator for a Stone Crab Fishing or Export License.
2. A person who intends to fish for stone crab using a trap shall apply to the Fisheries Administrator for authorization.
3. No person authorized to take stone crab using a plastic trap shall take stone crab unless the trap has:
a) An escape gap or apertures of not less than 2 3/8 inches along one side of the trap, other than the mouth; and
b) A biodegradable panel
4. No person shall fish, sell, display, offer for sale, buy, or have in his possession any stone crab during the period 1st July to 30th September. A person licensed to fish for stone crab may set a trap in the fisheries waters of Belize from the 15th of September but is not allowed to harvest any crab.
5. No person shall retain on board, tranship, store, sell, display, offer for sale, buy, or have in his possession –
a) Claws with a propodus length of less than 3 inches; and
b) The carapace or body of a stone crab
6. Any person who catches a stone crab shall release it into the sea immediately after the claw has been removed in the area it was caught.
7. No person shall use any device for taking stone crabs that can puncture, crush, or injure the body of a stone crab.
8. No person shall fish for stone crab unless equipped with a ruler or caliper on board the vessel.

All persons and establishments are encouraged to sell or consume all stone crab products before September 1st, 2022.  Fishers and fishers’ organizations are strongly encouraged to contact the Belize Fisheries Department at telephone number 224-4552 or by email at [email protected] for any clarifications needed. They advised that if a fisherman or consumer (restaurant) has crab product in large quantities and can not get rid of it by the end of the grace period, they can contact the department to make further arrangements.

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