Kindly Note, as a the Vice Chair of the Stann Creek DAVCO and assistance Secretary of NAVCO; we have been communicating with the Belize Fisheries Department – Ministry Of Agriculture and Fisheries; in assistance with the Hicatee Conservation Efforts.
For your information:
Over the past years, the Fisheries Department has observed an increasing trend in the illegal harvesting and sale of the Central American River Turtle (Dermatemys mawii) locally known as "HICA TEE", The sale of these turtles, including its meat which is being served in restaurants and is promoted in Village events and other festivities throughout Belize has become more eminent. These practices are illegal in Belize and threaten the survival of this species. A recent survey conducted in 2010 in Belize indicates that populations are in decline, especially in areas traditionally fished by fishermen in rural areas. The Hicatee is a turtle endemic only to the region of the coastal lowlands of Southern Mexico, Northern Guatemala and Belize. Presently, Hicatee is classified as critically endangered (facing an extremely high risk of extinction) by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). In Belize, there are currently existing laws under the Fisheries Act for the protection and management of 'HICATEE', which are provided below:
v No person shall:
a) have in his possession more than three such turtles at any one time;
b) transport on any vehicle more than five such turtles;
c) fish for such turtles during the period from 1st May to the 31st May inclusive in any year;
d) fish for females of such turtles greater than 43cm (17.2 inches) and smaller than 38cm (15.2 inches);
e) fish for such turtles in any of the areas specified in the Fifth Schedule attached to these Regulations;
f) Sell or purchase such turtles.
Fishing for Hicatee in the following areas is prohibited:
1. Belize River: from Beaver Dam Creek to Labouring Creek;
2. New River: from Irish Creek to Water Bank;
3. Rio Bravo: upstream from Dos Bocas Dam, including Booth's River;
4. Cox and Mucklehany Lagoons and headwaters of Mussel Creek;
5. Northern and Southern Lagoons and tributaries (Manatee lagoons and Manatee River);
6. Sibun River: between Ferguson Bank and Sibun Bar.
Any person who contravenes any or part of the regulation in relation to the turtle locally known as ‘Hicatee’ commits an offence and shall be liable on summary conviction to a fine of two thousand dollars or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding one year or to both such fine and imprisonment.
A Hunting License is also required from the Forest Department under the Wildlife Protection Act Chapter 220 Revised Edition 2000·2003 of the Laws of Belize.
The Fisheries Department along with the National Hicatee Conservation and Monitoring Network (NHCMN) have now revived national efforts to establish better management measures for the
conservation of the Hicatee in Belize.
The Fisheries Department is requesting your kind cooperation in enforcing the current Fisheries Laws pertaining to Hicatee by informing the public that the 'SALE OF HICATEE IS ILLEGAL'.
Please note that the Enforcement Unit of the Fisheries Department will be enforcing these laws, especially as it relates to ' PUBLIC EVENTS' and other 'CULTURAL ACTIVITIES".
As a key stakeholder, the Fisheries Department will continue to consult and keep the National Association or Village Councils updated on any emerging issues or other related activities.
Thanking you in advance for your committed support to the sustainable use and the conservation of the Hicatee.
Charles Leslie Jr.