Friday, April 19, 2024

Heavy fines for fisherfolk caught with out-of-season and prohibited products

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Two Belize City fishermen have been slapped with almost $100,000 in fines for catching out-of-season lobster, queen conch, and angelfish, a protected species in Belize. The fishermen, identified as 40-year-old captain Randolph Aragon and 30-year-old Vidal Orellano, were also penalized for fishing without a valid fisherfolk license. The pair pled guilty and were arraigned on Wednesday, June 7th, at the Belize City Magistrate Court. For their cooperation, the court allowed them to split the hefty penalty.

The bust includes 23 Angelfish, 58 Angelfish fillets, 24 conchs, and 28 lobsters. Senior Magistrate Baja Shoman laid out the fines to Aragon and Orellano. The breakdown of the penalties includes $1,000 for each prohibited Angelfish and another $1,000 for each of the 58 Angelfish fillets. Regarding the conch, they were fined $1,000 each plus an additional penalty fee of $50 for each conch. They were also fined $1,000 each for out-of-season-lobster, plus an additional penalty fee of $50 for each lobster.

These types of incidents have been reported across the country, including San Pedro, Ambergris Caye. In April 2020, as the COVID-19 pandemic was hitting the country, the Hol Chan Marine Reserve (HCMR), along with the San Pedro Police Formation, apprehended three island fishermen with out-of-season and undersized conch and lobster. They were also penalized for obstruction and engaging in commercial fishing without a valid fisherfolk license. The fishermen pleaded guilty and were levied fines totalling $9,660.

Randolph Aragon and Vidal Orellano. Photo credit: Love FM

Following the latest incident with mainland fishermen, the HCMR reminded fishermen to abide by fisheries laws. They reiterate that the Queen Conch season closed on May 14th and will re-open on October 1st. The lobster season has been closed since February 28th and is re-opening on June 30th. The HCMR added that they will increase their patrols and continue enforcing the law and conducting operations. Any fishermen caught breaking the law are warned that they will face the full extent of the law.

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