New Measures to Improve Enforcement of Fisheries Laws Print E-mail
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Thursday, 19 September 2013 00:00

The Belize Fisheries Department will benefit from a new initiative being funded by the European Union to improve the enforcement of fisheries laws in the Caribbean region. Milton Haughton, Executive Director of the Caribbean Regional Fisheries Mechanism, said, “A major weakness in the Caribbean region is the fact that our capacity is limited on the enforcement side, and very often offenses are not successful in the courts because the proper procedures are not followed.” He continued, “"We want to strengthen their capacities so that they are more effective at prosecuting offenses against the Fisheries Act.”

Through the EU’s program for African, Caribbean and Pacific group of states (ACP Fish II), two regional experts have been commissioned to “build on the successes of the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States by revamping and expanding two procedural manuals to cater to the demands of a broader regional regime envisioned in the Caribbean Community Common Fisheries Policy.”

Those experts are Dr. Winston McCalla of Jamaica and Ambassador Joseph Daven of Antigua. Dr. McCalla is leading the revision of the OECS Fisheries Prosecution Manual and the OECS Standard Operating Procedures Manual, both produced in 1997. McCalla explained that the intention is to update the manuals with input from CARIFORUM countries in order to strengthen the training of fisheries personnel, police, coast guard and other relevant enforcement authorities. McCalla says, “There would be common training for persons within the CARIFORUM; countries that have more advanced developments would share that with others and that the training mechanism will become more consistent throughout the region.” Daven and McCalla will also work with CARIFORUM States to strengthen the capacity of their enforcement officers and agencies to conduct fisheries monitoring, control and surveillance (MCS) and to enforce fisheries law. McCalla says, “We'd hope that the enforcement mechanisms will be strengthened, because without enforcement the laws become meaningless. And that is the heartland of the project."

According to Hampton Gamboa, Supervisor of the Conservation Compliance Unit of the Belize Fisheries Department, Belize is in the process of using more modern technology in order to improve monitoring, control and surveillance of fishing activities in Belize. The Fisheries Department is on the verge of introducing unmanned aerial vehicles called conservation drones to monitor the waters of Belize. Gamboa said, “Once we incorporate both the manuals and the drones together, we believe that within the next two years, three years, we'll see some tremendous growth in terms of enforcement as well as holding people accountable [who] are out doing illegal activities.”

The draft manuals will be presented at a validation workshop scheduled to be held in Grenada on October 16th and 17th of this year.