Three-Week Amnesty but Rosewood Moratorium Remains in Effect Print E-mail
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Thursday, 18 April 2013 00:00

Hon. Lisel AlamillaOn the 14th of March, 2013, at the sixteenth session of the Conference of the Parties on the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) a decision was taken to regulate the international trade of rosewood and now the harvest and exportation of rosewood from Belize will fall under the CITES regulations. In order to regulate the trade of rosewood, the Ministry of Forestry, Fisheries and Sustainable Development needs to account for the entire pre-convention volume of harvested rosewood currently available in the country. The best way to make such an exercise successful in what has become an extremely shady trade is the implementation of an amnesty period.

From April 8th to April 26th, individuals will be allowed to export rosewood that was harvested during the moratorium period. However, they must first report their stock to the Ministry of Forestry. The ministry may approve the sale and export of their rosewood with the agreement that 50% of the proceeds go to the Government of Belize. This will not only allow for accounting of the volume of rosewood on the ground but it may also cause local players in the rosewood trade to come from out of the shadows.

In a press conference on Monday, April 15th, Minister of Forestry, Fisheries and Sustainable Development, Hon. Lisel Alamilla, said that she understands Belizeans can be a bit suspicious about the process because it was not handled in the best possible way. Alamilla said, “I think it was, of course, a downfall on our side that we didn’t come out and release this information and so it creates the suspicion that something fishy is going on. I will accept the responsibility of my Ministry that we didn’t come out with this information prior.” She explained, “It was discussed in Cabinet for three consecutive meetings. It was discussed at length and debated at length and it was the decision of Cabinet that even though this was perhaps not going to be viewed as politically smart. It is necessary for the governance of our Forest resources.”

More than 25,000 board feet of rosewood which was confiscated by government during the moratorium period will be sold at $5 per board foot. Government will also receive 50% of the export proceeds from that stock. Minister Alamilla’s initial decision to burn the rosewood so that no one would benefit from its extraction was also met with public opposition. The individuals involved in the trading of rosewood have held long standing relationships with their clients and such relationship is important in such a trade.

It is important to note that the moratorium on the extraction of rosewood remains in effect and anyone captured attempting to extract the precious hardwood will face the full extent of the law.