One pleaded guilty and was fined over $9,000, while the other three saw their charges withdrawn
A total of 431 undersized lobsters, otherwise known as “crayfish”, were confiscated by Fisheries Department officials at a fishing camp, south of Caye Chapel, which led to the arrest and detention of 4 well-known fishermen.
They are 50-year-old Luigi Marin, of #15 3rd Street in the Kings Park area of Belize City; Gerald Foreman, 24, of #3 Pinks Alley in Belize City; Hubert Palacio, 30, of a Perez Road Address in Ladyville; and Mark A. Sewell, 43, a fisherman/watchman of #182 Vista Del Mar Area, also in Ladyville.
The men are all lobster trap fishermen from the area south of Caye Chapel, said Fisheries Prosecutor, Hampton Gamboa.
According to Gamboa, there have been a number of encounters with persons in that area, but finally, they have been able to make an arrest and carry out the subsequent confiscation of undersized lobsters. He told Amandala that they received a tip from a member of the public on Tuesday, after which they launched a joint operation with the Gang Suppression Unit and headed out to South Caye Chapel at around 9:00 or 10:00 Tuesday night. Upon reaching one of the fishing camps on the island, Gamboa said, “We searched the premises and were able to find two iceboxes; one was partially filled, and the other just had a couple lobsters. After the officers’ procedure of weighing each individual [lobster], we ended up with four hundred and thirty-one undersized lobsters.”
However, only three of the four men appeared in court today to answer to the charges levied against them, because the charges against Foreman had been withdrawn. Marin, Palacio and Sewell were jointly arraigned in the Magistrate’s Court for possession of undersized lobsters – which are classified as lobsters with a tail weight of less than 4 ounces.
Palacio and Marin were additionally arraigned for the charge of engaging in commercial fishing without a valid license. Palacio pleaded guilty to the possession of the illegal lobsters and was fined $500, plus an additional $8,620. He must pay the $500 by October 31, or he will spend 6 months in prison. He must pay the other fine by December 31, 2013. If he defaults, a warrant of distress will be issued, and he could face jail time.
Both Marin and Palacio pled not guilty to engaging in commercial fishing without a license, and were offered bail in the sum of $500, plus one surety of the same amount. They are due back in Court #3 on October 31, 2013.
Sewell was able to leave the court today free of charges, since his only charge was for the possession of the undersized lobsters. That charge, however, was also withdrawn from Foreman and Marin when Palacio took the rap.
Of note is that the lobster season was officially opened on June 15th of this year, and will be open until February 14th of next year.