Magistrates receive training on Forestry and Fisheries Crimes Print E-mail
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Thursday, 30 March 2017 00:00

On Wednesday, March 29, the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) hosted Magistrates of the Belize Judiciary, the Belize Fisheries Department, and the Belize Forest Department at the Best Western Biltmore Plaza for a session. A session was previously held on March 28, 2017 at the George Price Center in Belmopan. The purpose was to disseminate information and gather feedback to build a better understanding on the status of current forestry and fisheries department crimes. Another aim was to strategize on effective procedure to deter the illegal activities that threaten species and ecosystem sustainability.

According to a press release, the forests of Belize are suffering from illegal and unsustainable extraction of timber, non-timber forest products, wildlife and precious metals. The marine environment also suffers from illegal and unsustainable activities such as the removal of undersized and out-of-season species. While there are penalties in place to avoid such activities, the society believes that if those penalties were effective, they would serve as deterrents. Because there are many people that depend on the forest and marine environment, it would be best to sustainably use the resources.

The project, funded by the Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement (INL) of the US Department of State, hosts sessions as a result of the efforts of both departments looking to strengthen law enforcement capacity and reduce those illegal activities related to deforestation and degradation of forest resources and unsustainable fishing. It exists as a forum to clarify amendments under the current Forests Act and to identify issues that repeatedly plague and negatively affect sustainable forest and marine conservation.

Chief Magistrate Anne Marie Smith, who attended, commented that she believes, as well as other magistrates, that the workshop was especially needed. Smith stated that judicial officers often find themselves in need of more training as it relates to adequately addressing such offences.