On Wednesday News Five broke the story that another Jamaican company is seeking the green light from government for large scale deep sea fishing in the south. Rainforest Limited, which is affiliated to Aquamar Limited, a local seafood export company, is proposing to build a multimillion dollar facility in southern Belize that would process at least two million pounds of seafood for export annually; well above what is the seafood production. The Ministry of Agriculture has given its blessing but the entire Cabinet is yet to act on it. The company is seeking tax exemption for fifteen years, land near Independence for the processing plant and duty free access to construction materials. It would bring in its own fishing boats and in turn it would employ forty persons. Stakeholders in the industry believe that the large scale fishing would further erode the dwindling fish stock in the south and opposition to the proposal is coming fast and furious. News Five caught up today with Audrey Matura Shepherd, the Vice President of Oceana, who says she has raised the matter with the Minister of Fisheries, Rene Montero, and she is not satisfied with what she is hearing. Oceana is also calling on the government to suspend all plans to allow foreign fleets in our territorial waters.

Audrey Matura Shepherd, Vice President, Oceana Belize
“At this point we don’t have any policy, we don’t have any framework to deal with foreign fees. So, yes I heard about Rainforest and what I have heard so far, I am not satisfied with what they are proposing. I think the problem here is people are misguided. They believe that there are so much fishes in our water, the abundance is out there, but no. If anyone has been following the scientific data, we do not have the high stocks that we use to have. Why you think the Ministry of Agriculture had to pass legislation to protect the fish? Why you think the ministry had to pass the legislation with catch and release? Simply because they recognize that while people believe we just have lot of fish out there, it is not so. So when they say let us open up to everyone and all, we’re putting ourselves in a position where the little we have will not be enough to satisfy the two million. And with the limited enforcement that we have, these people will most likely go into our protected areas or maybe they’re considering exploring deep sea fishing which is new in Belize. My position for Oceana is that the government needs to take a holistic approach to this problem and decide okay we need to come up with a policy how best to harvest what is out in the Belizean waters and simply the Belizeans must get preference.”

Channel 5