Tonight, 30 year-old Hubert Palacio and 50 year-old Luigi Marin, are out on bail after they were taken to court along with fellow fisherman 43 year-old Mark Sewell in connection with a bust of 431 undersized lobsters which the Fisheries Department made last night.
According to the Fisheries Department, these men were at a fishing camp south of Caye Chapel, when they were busted with the illegal haul. Today, Supervisor Hampton Gamboa explained to us about what led to the raid, and what the effects on the environment this illegal act has caused:
Hampton Gamboa - Fisheries Supervisor, Conservation Compliance Unit
"The public had called us yesterday about 6 or 7 with some reliable information, and we pursued the information last night at around 9 or 10. Fisheries officers went the southern part of Caye Chapel, where on one of these islands, they found a fishing camp. We searched the premise and were able to find 2 iceboxes. One was partially filled, and the other had just a couple lobsters. After the officers proceeded with the procedure weighing each individual, we ended up with 431 undersized lobsters."
"Can you tell us about the individuals who Fisheries Department has charged for these undersized lobsters?"
"Well, they are well-known lobster trap fishermen, from the area south of Caye Chapel, in the Belize Judicial District. There have been a few encounters with officers on patrol during the closed season with these same individuals, so, we were finally able, with the assistance of the public, to arrest and charged these individuals. The area is a well-known lobster nursery ground, and you're looking at someone having in their possession well over 400 undersized lobsters, and majority of these lobsters didn't even weigh 3 ounces. So, they are really a portion of the juvenile stock that have been tampered with in this case. That entire area of Caye Chapel, Caye Caulker, and Long Caye is a well-known lobster nursery grounds."
All 3 men were arraigned in Magistrate’s Court today for possession undersized lobsters. Palacio and Marin were additionally arraigned for the charge of engaging in commercial fishing without a valid license.
Palacio pleaded guilty to the possession of the illegal lobsters and was fined $500, plus an additional $8,620. He must pay the $500 by October 31, or he will spend 6 months in prison in default. He must pay that other huge fine by the end of the year. If he defaults, a warrant of distress will be issued, and he could risk jail time.
Major bust of undersized lobster
The Fisheries Department is reporting a major bust of undersized lobsters. A total of four hundred and thirty-one undersized lobsters were confiscated and four persons were detained. They have been identified Luigi Marin, Gerald Foreman, Hubert Palacio and Mark Sewell. The four are well known fishermen from the area south of Caye Chapel. This afternoon, three of the men appeared in court. Marin, Palacio and Sewell were charged with possession of undersized lobster tails. Marin and Sewell pleaded not guilty to the charge while Palacio pleaded guilty. He was fined five hundred dollars plus was order to pay over eight thousand dollars for the undersized lobsters. Fisheries Prosecutor, Hampton Gamboa, told News Five that the fishermen have had previous run-ins with the department.
Hampton Gamboa, Fisheries Prosecutor
“Fisheries officers headed to the Southern part of Caye Chapel where on one of these fishing camps, we searched the premises and were able to found two icebox; one was partially filled and the other just had a couple lobsters. After the officers procedure of weighing each individual, we ended up with four hundred and thirty-one undersized lobsters. If they are found guilty, we are looking at four hundred and thirty-one multiplied by twenty which is a little bit over eight thousand six hundred dollars and in addition a fine of approximately five hundred dollars. If one person pleads guilty you are looking at roughly about nine thousand dollars. They are well-known lobster trap fishermen from the area south of Caye Chapel in the Belize District. There have been couple encounters with officers on patrol during the season with these same individuals. So we finally were able to with the assistance of the public able to arrest and charge these individuals. The area is a well known lobster nursery ground and you are looking at someone having well over four hundred undersize lobsters and majority of these lobsters don’t even weight three ounces. So a portion of the juvenile stock that has been tampered with in this case. That entire area of Caye Chapel, Caye Caulker, Long Caye is a well known lobster nursery, lobster ground. Traditionally, most of our lobster trap fishermen in the Belize Judicial District comes from this area so these guys when you look at it from n economical standpoint, they are destroying the nursery ground.”
Lobster season has opened since June fifteenth and will open till February fourteenth.