The Belize Tourism Industry Association sent out a press release congratulating the Fisheries Department on their recent sting operation that resulted in the confiscation of 8,980 pieces of off-season conch.
As reported on the media, last week, about 1,500 pounds of conch was found within different fishing camps in the Lighthouse Reef Atoll this past weekend. It is believed that this type of illicit fishing activity is not a one-time operation. It is very organized and supports the illegal trade with Honduras.
In the press release BTIA stated: “While we are pleased with the results of this conch bust, we recognize that much more needs to be done to protect our fisheries resources from those who seek to plunder it. With only 13 enforcement officers and limited fuel, the Fisheries Department will not be able to meaningfully deter and eliminate illegal fishing over the long term. The Fisheries Department does not have the resources or man power to properly police the fisheries law. This makes the huge conch bust that much more heroic.”
BTIA states that it condemns the illegal harvesting of conch (and lobster) as such activity jeopardizes the future of our fishing industry and also affects our tourism industry. Conch and lobster are vitally important to our economy and their sustainability needs to be safeguarded. These two commodities represent a significant source of revenue for local fishermen, and play a vital culinary role in the tourism industry.
“We hereby remind our members and other tourism stakeholders that the open season for conch runs from October 1st to June 30th of the following year or until the national conch quota is met,” stated John M. Burgos, Executive Director, Belize Tourism Industry Association, in the release. “We urge our member hotels and restaurants to not purchase off-season or under-sized marine products at any time. We also encourage our members and the general public to report all suspected cases of illegal harvesting to the relevant authorities.”
BTIA applauds the commendable efforts of the Fisheries Department’s Supervisor of Enforcement, Hampton Gamboa, on spearheading the enforcement of the fisheries laws and doing his part with limited resources to protect the fishing industry. Ultimately, it is critical that fishermen understand the importance of abiding by the laws and regulations so that we may have a viable and lucrative fishing industry for generations to come.