The Hicatee turtle is a critically endangered species but it's also a much sought after delicacy in Belize. And that's why balancing cultural practices and preservation is always a delicate balance.

But - all of the May month is the time for preservation.

A public notice form the Fisheries Department reminds the public that the closed season for Hicatee is from May 1st to May 31st, 2012. During this time, the purchase or sale of the Hicatee including cooked Hicatee is prohibited under the Fisheries Laws.

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The Belize Fisheries Department is hereby reminding the general public that the closed season for Hicatee is from May 1st to May 31st, 2012.

The Department is also informing all restaurants, food vending establishments and the general public that the purchase or sale of the Hicatee (including its products such as cooked meat) is prohibited under the Fisheries Laws.

The following laws are applicable:

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 in) and smaller than 38cm (15.2 in);
(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.
(g) Have in possession or use any ‘Hicatee Nets’.

FIFTH SCHEDULE:

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.

The General Public is advised to call the Fisheries Department Enforcement Section at 224-4552 or 223-2623 to report on illegal fishing activities or further information.