SARSTOON RIVER, Toledo, Mon. July 25, 2016–The Ministry of National Security has alerted the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of reports that 32 Guatemalan canoes were counted in the Sarstoon River area two weekends ago, when as many as 100 fishers were reported by Wil Maheia of the Belize Territorial Volunteers (BTV) to have been illegally fishing inside Belize.
Chief Executive Officer in the Ministry of National Security, Ret’d Colonel George Lovell, told us that he was unaware of the occurrence. He subsequently investigated the report which we shared with him from Maheia, as well as pictures Maheia took of the Guatemalans. Those photos, Lovell said, clearly demonstrated that there was illegal fishing in Belizean waters.
In one photo, a Guatemalan man was shown fishing with a gill net right in front of the Forward Operating Base manned by Belize Defence Force officers in the area. Fishing with gill nets near a river mouth contravenes Belize law.
Lovell said that they are trying to find out what precipitated the activities, and if there was some kind of fishing tournament held in the area.
Not only were there many canoes at the Sarstoon, but there were also several fiberglass skiffs photographed by Maheia.
Maheia indicated to us that those skiffs made their way up to the area between the Sarstoon and the Temash Rivers, north of the dividing main channel which separates Guatemala from Belize.
This weekend, we were told that things were far quieter on the Sarstoon. There are unofficial reports that Belizean law enforcement officials visited the area on what, we were told, was dubbed a “sensitizing visit” to warn the Guatemalans against making incursions into Belize to fish illegally.