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#376098 05/08/10 09:37 AM
Joined: Oct 1999
Posts: 84,400
Marty Offline OP
OP Offline
Those Jamaican fishermen - they arrived in Toledo in December with their fishing boats and that created a public uproar. But the boats are gone and now they have set up a processing plants ready to export fish, conch, lobster, sea cucumbers, fish and farmed tilapia. Except they haven't got an export license. It's a dicey situation for government because the Jamaicans no longer have their joint venture relationship with Punta Gorda's Rio Grande Co-Op. But as we found out Rio-Grande and the Jamaicans' PG fisheries Company have a working relationship. That's one of the plusses for this project that is fighting for maximum approval.

We pick up our story where we left it yesterday as PG Mayor Floyd Lino was talking about fat fish and starving people.

Floyd Lino, Mayor of Punta Gorda Town
"I believe that the time has come where if we are going to develop in a sustainable manner we need to balance the environmental development with the economic development of our people because fish is living and they are getting fat but people are starving."

And that is a sentiment that the company is harping on.

Derek Osbourne, PG Fisheries Company
"You know what I like about this crowd? The last meeting that we had, September 9, it was a lot of expatriates. White folks. This is Belizean people. You understand, this is bona-fide, genuine, Belizean, grassroots people, who really need economic growth in their community. These are the people who want their bread to be buttered. And these are the people who we are bringing development and economic upliftment to. Not the white folks. Not those people who are living big life."

But the problem isn't with those expatriates he referred to. It's with government, which has not issued an export permit to PG Fisheries Company. Make no mistake, this event and the unveiling of this plant, is a deliberate public relations strategy to force government to give that license.

Derek Osbourne, PG Fisheries Company
"We have made our application to the relevant authority and I know it takes some time. It takes a process. We are awaiting a response from the relevant authority. And I beleive that it will be favourable because the needs of the people will dictate the response of the government."

And the people - those who were there at least - say they need this facility to be fully operational.

Sheldon Lambey, St. Vincent Block Youth Group
"We would like for the thing to go through so the government could give these guys their license so they could purchase "the fill." Because we find out a lot of times that we go fishing and we end up at the market whole day trying to sell our fish and we don't get through with all our fish."

Victor Jacobs, Former Chairman, Rio Grande Co-Op
"Personally, like I said, I did not agree with the Jamaicans and so bringing out their own vessels and their own fishermen because then I do not agree with that. But when it comes to the development part of purchasing the fish and things like that, then I am in full support of that. I think that's a great idea for a community like Punta Gorda, that wants jobs."

Jersh Gordon, Fisherman Association, Monkey River
" I find that this system is very good for us because we are all fishermen and we need marketing for our fish and these fishermen have made an arrangement that they are not going to catch fish, they are going to buy fish. And we don't have no kind of marketing for our fish, so by these guys doing what we require by catching the limits size of fishes and doing what we require, I think I am in full support of these guys."

Derek Osbourne, PG Fisheries Company
"The people are hurting. They are suffering. They need jobs. And as a result, a lot of young people were here today. And because they are showing their support, because they are desparately in need of jobs. And that's what we are here to do, provide jobs. We are not here to fish. We are not here to go out there and rape the banks. All we are here to do is buy fish from the local fishermen, licensed fishermen. And sell fish into the market."

Osbourne says they are ready to start processing now.

Derek Osbourne, PG Fisheries Company
"So far we have invested over $500,000 US dollars. And we have trained over 35 people in food safety. The plant has gotten BAHA certification and therefore the people are clamouring for jobs. Right now, we are processing sea cucumber, storing sea cucumber for the Rio Grande Fishermen Co-op. Previously, they could not have done that without us because there was no form of facility in southern Belize that could assist in the processing of fishery products."

"We envision processing fish, conch, lobster and also Tilapia because I realize that there is an opportunity for Tilapia fishing and that is a gold mine waiting to be discovered."

And also waiting to be discovered are those fish stocks in the blue, beyond the reef. Rio Grande Co-op - which was represented at the head table says it wants to explore that with Osborn's group.

Armando Martinez, Vice-Chair, Rio Grande Fishing Co-Op
"The whole idea here is Rio Grande has been behind this to increase the fisherman lifestyle. If we have the resources that we could tap into then that's the route that we should be taking. One of the things that people need to consider is that these reserves that are there in place, are there in place for a reason, for us to get into deep sea fishing would definitely even contribute a whole lot to these reserves. Because then the fisherfolk that are actually focusing on the reserves for their livelihood can now move on to a different area, giving it enough time."

Derek Osbourne, PG Fisheries Company
"Beyond the barrier reef, there is a virgin territory. Sustainable fishing also means to explore other areas that fishing has not yet been taking place in."

But let's face it the reason why Osbourne and his group are here is because Jamaica's fish-stocks are significantly depleted. So what's to stop that from happening here?

Derek Osbourne, PG Fisheries Company
"The fact that we have seen what took place in Jamaica puts us in a better position also to give advice and to not allow history to repeat itself. So from day one, we will be asking fishermen to conduct their fishing in a sustainable way."

Whether that is just spin or policy is hardly the issue right now. The question is that with the popular support this project is generating, can government afford to resist it?

The PG Fisheries company has already processed sea cucumbers for Rio Grande Co-op. The co-op has said it will purchase fish for 3 dollars a pound from fishermen.

Now what about that export permit? Well, like we said at the top, it's dicey because the Fisheries Department doesn't want to license an organization that will be running parallel to the Belizean co-op which could possibly undermine that co-op. So, a meeting has been set for Tuesday between the Fisheries Department and the Executive Management of the Rio Grande Co-op.

Channel 7

Joined: Feb 2010
Posts: 153
Marty posted this on May 8th. Not a single comment three days later. Come on guys, aren't people on AC interested in fishing? This is probably the most serious piece of news this week.
OK tucked away on the very last section of the very last forum. Its reported as Toledo news. WRONG.
As you may find out when the Jamaicans start showing Belizeans how to wreck their fisheries just like they wrecked their own fisheries years ago. Its all documented. Does anyone imagine that the fishing boats will stay around Punta Gorda? The quantities of fish this group want to "buy" from us is so great that it may lead to serious damage to our fisheries. When the boats appear with their traps and nets off AC, just remember you were warned.
Hopefully ACCSD will take this up as we are on the mainland.
But please take this seriously before it is too late.
Chris Harris
Chairman, South Coast Citizens for Sustainable Development.

Joined: Oct 1999
Posts: 84,400
Marty Offline OP
OP Offline


The building is complete. The equipment installed and just about three dozen workers trained.  But today, the Toledo Fishing Company facility in Punta Gorda is silent; and company executives are awaiting the call that tells them their export processing license had been approved. Derek Osbourne is one of the Directors of PG Fisheries Company Limited.

Derek Osbourne; Director, PG Fisheries Company Limited

"We've gotten already our BAHA certification from the competent authority and now we are ready to work, fishermen are basically calling us from Dangriga, Placencia, Monkey River, and here in PG and they are ready to work but we are unable to move forward bcasue we have not yet received out export permit."

And what is the hold up?

Derek Osbourne

"I am not sure what is the hold up, you know. Because we have already applied to the Fisheries Department. So we are awaiting a response from them. So we don't know what is the hold up. We have not yet been told as to why we have not yet been granted an export permit."

And while Osbourne and the other directors remain hopeful for an export processing license, the million dollar investment sits largely unused. Except for one of the cold storage units which are currently being used by a local fishing cooperative.

Derek Osbourne

"You have the Rio Grande Fishermen Coop, previously we came here as a joint venture, but based on the uproar the boat went back, the joint venture became null and void. So as a result of that, right now the Rio Grande Fishermen Coop is engaged in procession sea cucumber. We are the ones now that is freezing and help in the processing of that sea cucumber for export. So right now the Coop and the people of P.G. are directly benefitting as a result of this facility." 

At a public forum last week, company executives laid out their plans to the prospective workers and community members. 

Floyd Lino; Mayor, Punta Gorda

"We see this project as very, very beneficial to our community."

And now, even the Mayor of the Town Floyd Lino is throwing his weight behind the company, advocating for them to get their license to export processed marine products from Toledo.  Floyd Lino tells Love News that even though some people are standing in the way, in the end, good sense will prevail.

Floyd Lino

"Punta Gorda is a very unique town, my brother. I think we are one of the districts that probably has one of the most natural resources. And as a result of that we have the most environmental organizations. The agenda of the environmentalist is a little different from the agenda of the investors and the government or we the elected representatives must strike that balance. That balance where we'll have conservation mixed with economic development. I continue to repeat that because it can be done in a sustainable manner. The investors have a corporate responsibility to follow the laws of this country. Our government also has a corporate responsibility to set guidelines under which the investors must operate. We set the rules, you follow the rules. You're requesting a license to operate, good. Here is the license, but these are the rules that you must follow. That's the way I see it. I don't want to step on anybody's toes but there has been too many times when one aspect of the equation has imbalanced the other where the environmental aspect has been overwhelmingly supported, even in the courts of law."

Lino says he has been supportive of the venture from the inception and he, like Osbourne believes that the license will be issued in due time. Osbourne says any suggestion at subtle diplomacy by getting prospective workers to become vocal in advocating for their jobs is just not true.

Derek Osbourne

"No, it's not a subtle way of twisting the government. Development and jobs is the basic cry of every country. People are suffering, and people want jobs. Without development no country can move forward. And so hence we are basically here as investors, CARICOM partners, who want to invest. You know, Jamaica has three million people and we basically see a market where we can sell fish there. We came here and we see that a lot of fish was stocking up in the market on Vernon Street, in the market in P.G. and Dangriga. If you go around, you will see people having fish to throw away. Why throwing these fish away when there is a market that can take these fish and then some income can come back to the economy in the country."

Floyd Lino

"Yes, a license will be issued. I am confident that the government will see things in a right way and they will issue the license because they wouldn't have in the beginning granted a duty exemption for half a million U.S. dollars worth of investments in a corporation like this if they did not intend to give a license.  In this situation here we are trying to develop our people. And so I am certain that the government will see it from a rational view point. I am with the government, I am a member of this government and I am certain that we will prevail because the inventive will be granted to the investors for them to develop Punta Gorda town and the Toledo district. We need it. This is one step out of poverty."


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