by Charles Gladden
CORONA REEF, Toledo District, Mon. May 15, 2023
On Saturday, May 13, the Belize Coast Guard and the Toledo Institute for Development and Environment (TIDE) discovered Honduran nationals fishing in Belizean waters while conducting a joint operation on Corona Reef.
After 4:00 a.m. that Saturday, the three Honduran nationals were found illegally fishing onboard a blue and black vessel at Corona Reef, which is situated in the Gulf of Honduras between Honduras, Belize, and Guatemala, approximately 4.5 miles south of Hunting Caye.
The Hondurans were identified as Julio Cesar Hernandez Cover, Rosalio Ramos Cartajena, and Andres Salguero Pineda.
The three were charged with fishing without a valid fishing license and fishing without a valid boat license, along with immigration charges, and were fined $4,020 each. The Belize Fisheries Department proposed that the vessel, engine, and its contents be confiscated, which was granted.
Nonetheless, the situation is complex, because the Corona Reef lies between three nations, with 4 miles being in Belizean water and 5 miles in Guatemalan territory.
Admiral Elton Bennett, the Commandant of the Belize Coast Guard, told Amandala that the area is used for various reasons, especially for criminal activities.
“It is a geo-strategic location in the sense that there is adequate trade in the area in terms of fishing, activity in terms of merchant shipping, and the criminal elements exploit the lucrative marine area that is currently at Corona Reef,” said Admiral Bennett.
He went on to add, “The portion inside Belize’s jurisdiction is where we found the three Honduran nationals, so our patrols being equipped with navigation equipment were able to determine by their GPS that this fishing vessel was actually inside Belizean waters.”
Admiral Bennett noted that illegal fishing in Belizean water has not been happening of late due to their patrols.
“I wouldn’t say it’s common; it’s non-common because of our enforcement initiative; we’ve been very active in that area and along our entire reef system. So, our patrolling efforts are really the reason why we have been able to have minimal cross-border or illegal fishing inside our waters. Once we patrol our waters and use intelligence as much as we can in order to determine where and when and for us to be effective, and this weekend was a right example of that,” he said.
Bennett noted that the marine products were then given to the Fisheries Department as a standard procedure.