UPDATE: Belizean-American caught trying to smuggle undersized lobster tails at PGIA
Tuesday, April 26th, 2022
The Fisheries Department (FD) has provided an update about a Belizean-American busted on Friday, April 22nd, attempting to smuggle out of the country 183 undersized lobster tails through the Philip Goldson International Airport (PGIA). After his detention, the unidentified man was issued a summons to be arraigned in the Magistrate Court. He faces a minimum fine of $20,000 for trying to export seafood without a valid permit, possession of lobster during the closed season, and possession of undersized lobster. According to the FD, the Magistrate will determine the fine and penalty in court.
Supervisor of the Enforcement Unit At FD, Hampton Gamboa, informed the media in Belize City on Monday, April 25th, that they received a tip a day before the bust. They sprung into action with collaboration from the Belize Airport Authority, Belize Agriculture Health Authority, the Belize Police Department, and the Ministry of Civil Aviation.
On Friday, while trying to locate the individual’s residence, the Fisheries team was notified that the person of interest was at the PGIA checking in for his flight. When they arrived at the airport, the man was already in police custody and handed over to FD. After checking his suitcases, one had all the undersized lobster tails. He was processed, informed of the offenses, and summoned to appear at the Magistrate Court at a future date.
According to investigations, a ring is transporting undersized conch and lobster between Belize and California, USA. The FD is committed to cracking down on this illegal operation which can jeopardize Belize’s marine stock. As for those involved, Gamboa said, “We are bolstering up our presence as we speak and targeting some said individual in this matter.” The FD continues on high alert.
The Fisheries law and legal lobster sizes
The new Fisheries Act passed in January 2020 imposes strict rules and penalties for persons breaching fisheries laws. The punishment via this legislation aims to counter illegal fishing, establish measures to enable surveillance and enforcement, and co-management of marine reserves.
The Caribbean Spiny Lobster season in Belize is currently closed, and no one should have the Caribbean marine crustacean in their possession. This year’s season closed on February 28th and will re-open on June 30th. Of importance is the right size requirement for fishing lobster. According to FD, anything weighing less than 4.5 ounces is considered undersized tails.
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