On Tuesday, September 24, at about 7:00 p.m., officers of the Fisheries Department’s Conservation Compliance Unit, Punta Gorda branch, were on a night patrol within the Sapodilla Cayes Marine Reserve (SCMR) when they came across a vessel named Julie half a mile west of Seals Caye.
Whilst approaching the grey, black and red vessel, powered by a two-stroke 75HP outboard engine, the officer saw the occupants throwing what appeared to be marine products overboard.
The officers identified themselves as fisheries officers and made known their intent to conduct a general search.
The officers found 4 conch in their shells, 14 sea cucumbers and 4 pieces of fish fillet without the required 2-inch by 1-inch skin patch. The products were shown to the occupants of the vessel, who were subsequently informed of the offences committed and arrested.
In the vessel were Valerio Alfredo Perez, 43, of Malacate Road, Independence Village; Elmer Richards, 37, of 2nd New Site, Dangriga Town; Sergio A. Richards Ellis, 31, of Santa Cruz Village, Stann Creek District; and Hector Aroldo Wagner, 38, of Pelican Street, Punta Gorda Town.
The four were charged for possession of conch during the closed season; possession of sea cucumber during the closed season; harvesting sea cucumber without a special license; and possession of fish fillet without the required 2-inch by 1-inch skin patch. The charge of “harvesting of sea cucumber without a special license” was withdrawn due to duplicity.
All four occupants of the said vessel pleaded guilty to the remaining three charges. Each was fined $300 plus $5 cost of court. In default of payment, they would spend 2 months in prison for each offence.
In addition, each was required to pay $80 for the 4 conch found in their possession.
Magistrate Emerson Banner, Esq., presided over the matter, and Fisheries officer Lyndon Rodney was the prosecutor for the Fisheries Department.
Clayton Gabriel was the arresting officer.
All four men were unrepresented.