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#385931 08/19/10 05:16 AM
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Lobster Lust Leads to Lobster Bust

[Linked Image] [Linked Image] [Linked Image] Lobster season is in full swing and those who can afford it can freely feast on the highly coveted crustacean. But some unscrupulous fisherfolk take advantage of the open season and use it to declare open season on undersized lobster.

The fisheries department got wind of a major haul of just that which was ready for sale ata local market. They called in the police and organized a bust. Monica Bodden found out what they recovered.

Monica Bodden, Reporting

A joint operation between the Fisheries Department and the police force resulted in one of the largest busts of illegal lobster for this year. According to Fisheries Officials the early morning general sweep of the city led them to Vernon Street Fish Market where they found over eleven hundred undersized lobster tails and out of season conch.

George Myvette - Senior Fisheries Officer
[Linked Image] "We intercepted 2 illegal product situation; we arrested a fisherman with about 84 undersized lobsters and 11 conch. This is a fisherman from a Banak Street address in Belize City. The second operation focussed on a store house, a warehouse that had in illegal products; we brought in about 18 coolers, they were not all with product but some of them had product. At the storehouse we actually found 557 undersized lobsters and about 564 out of season conch. As you may be aware this is the closed season for conch. It runs from June 30 to September 30. The conch were of a legal size but they were out of season, so it's an illegal product. We did not take anybody into custody, the investigation continues, we are waiting for somebody to claim these items."

And whoever claims those items will be looking at some serious penalties.

George Myvette - Senior Fisheries Officer

"There are 2 schedules really; what we call the conviction fee goes up to about $500.00 the mandatory minimum in terms of the penalty is $20 per piece, so for each illegal lobster, of each illegal conch there is a mandatory minimum of $20. The magistrate or Judge may take it up to $30 as a maximum, but there is a mandatory minimum. When we add it all up its over 1100 pieces of illegal product and this adds up to over $22,000.00."

Myvette says this is one of the largest busts of illegal lobster so far for this year.

George Myvette - Senior Fisheries Officer

"It's a major bust as far as we are concerned; it's actually the largest bust of lobster this year. We have done some significant take of illegal conch but this is definitely the largest take of illegal lobsters."

Searches at locations where seafood is consumed or traded are conducted regularly by the Fisheries Department.

George Myvette - Senior Fisheries Officer

"On a given man month we would put in between 3,000 - 4,000 man hours on a given man month and this of course relates to the entire territory, this is patrols at sea, this is also on land patrol. As you would appreciate, our guys, the fisheries officers would be seen at the markets, they would be seen at check points as well as in restaurants and other places where seafood is consumed or traded."

And what happens to these 1,100 lobster tails and conch if no one owns up to them?

George Myvette - Senior Fisheries Officer

"Procedurally we would keep these for a time as the investigation continues to see who might be culpable in this situation. If the investigation does not yield anything conclusive in terms of who might be responsible then we would dispose of the products and we have a system in place where these products would normally be donated to worthy causes this would include the Sister Cecilia Home, these would include children's home as well as the feeding programs in a number of the primary schools."

The law states that lobster caught in season must have tails that weight a minimum of 4 ounces or for the full lobster, they must have a carapace length of three inches. The carapace is the upper section of the shell that connects to the tail.

Live and let live
Short #386116 08/22/10 05:36 AM
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1,116 conch, lobster tails seized at Vernon Street fish market

[Linked Image] A team of three officers in the Fisheries Department, together with four police officers, today made a major bust when they executed an operation at the fish market located on Vernon Street. The raid resulted in over a thousand pieces of undersized lobster and out-of-season conch (the conch season is closed from June 30 - September 30) being seized. So far, the Fisheries Department has identified the findings as the "major bust of 2010."

At around 7:05 this morning, the team stormed the fish market located on Vernon Street and searched for any unlawful possession of marine products.

On their first search the officers came across a cooler belonging to a vendor of Banak Street. Inside the cooler they found 13 out-of-season conch and 82 undersized lobster tails.

Shortly after that discovery, they spotted a storeroom opposite the market, and once having broken in by forcibly removing the entrance door of the room, they came across a total of 18 ice boxes. Out of these 18, 10 were large coolers and the remaining 8 were smaller coolers. At the time of the search no one was present to claim ownership.

A count made by officials concluded that there were 564 out-of-season conch and 457 undersized lobsters. All the undersized lobsters weighed much less than the regulation 4 ounces. For its legal purchase at any market, store or cooperative, a lobster tail must weigh at least 4 ounces.

The 1,000+ pieces of conch and tails were all taken to the Fisheries Department. The vendor of Banak Street who was in possession of the first finding, 13 conch and 82 undersized lobster tails, according to fisheries officials, has been summoned and is expected to appear in court on Thursday, August 26, 2010.

But the fact is that this is a major loss to the seafood industry, and it is likely to affect the upcoming season. Nothing much can be done to mend the damage at this point, so the 1,000+ pieces of conch and tails are to be donated to local feeding programs, according to Senior Fisheries Officer George Myvett.

One of the officers who made the finding said "We try to have zero tolerance in regards to undersized lobsters and out of-season conch, as well as any other seafood product, because the Fisheries Department is committed to the conservation of marine products."

Myvett explained the importance of the zero-tolerance approach to enforcement.

"The reason for the zero-tolerance approach to enforcement is that fish stock, including lobster and conch, is finite and can be fished to extinction.

"The situation with fisheries globally is that 70% of fish stocks have been overfished and are in decline, �[we have] to ensure that the issue is not only an abstract concept but it is something that can be achieved and sustained over time.

"I would take this opportunity to appeal to the general public to assist the Fisheries Department in its commitment to eradicate illegal fishing and trade in seafood products."

As of this morning, the 1,000+ pieces were treated with a sodium bisulphate solution, which is an antibacterial agent to prevent spoiling.

Altogether, the total finding would amount to 1,116 pieces (13+82+ 564 +457).

Lobster is sold at $20.00 per pound and after the rush at the start of the season, the price can fall to $17.00 per pound minimum. Meanwhile, conch prices may vary from 8 to 10 dollars per pound.

It is not known when all the law-breakers will be identified, or charges brought against them.

Live and let live

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