The European Commission has recommended that several countries including Belize be blacklisted for failure to do enough to stop illegal activities on the high seas by ships registered in our name. A High Seas Fishing Bill has been passed by the House of Representatives but accompanying regulations and other measures have not been put in place quickly enough for the Commission’s liking and so products caught by vessels flying the Belize flag cannot be imported into the EU, though products coming directly from Belize can. On Thursday, Prime Minister Dean Barrow maintained that efforts are being made to address the issue.
Hon. Dean Barrow- Prime Minister and Minister of Finance
“I’m having some difficulties with the European Union who are saying, “not withstanding the passage of the High Seas Fishing Act, Government needs to do more in terms of the fishing fleet; flagged, locally flagged, foreign fishing fleet”, and there’s correspondence moving back and forth. We are satisfied that the regulations that must be passed under the Act that we now now made a law, can be done freely quickly and the monitoring put in place, so we don’t expect that there will be too much passing before we are able to clear this situation completely with the EU”.
The Prime Minister insists that June’s takeover of the International Merchant Marine Registry has gone far to address the problem.
Hon. Dean Barrow: “Let us also be clear that the possible consequences of the EU action don’t extend to anything other than the fisheries product for the fishing fleet. It doesn’t affect our shrimp; it doesn’t affect anything else. While it is serious and we are taking it seriously, and we will deal with it, don’t let us get carried away and believe that it is more consequential than it is”.
In a statement issued late yesterday evening, Government affirmed that early next year, it intends to ask the EU for a reassessment of Belize’s control mechanism for high seas fisheries with the hope that Belize will soon be out of the list of non-cooperating third countries.