They are tiny animals, but very valuable. The sea cucumber is a Chinese delicacy that sells here for between US$50 and 110 per kilo, about BZ$21 per pound and in cooked form can run up to US$165 in China.
On Monday, February 17 around 4:00 a.m. the Police Mobile Interdiction Team busted a vehicle at a checkpoint at Mile 31, George Price Highway and recovered bags containing a total of 7,033 cucumbers weighing 3,075 pounds.
Guatemalan citizens Georgina Mendez Aldana, 49; Hugo Salas, 52; and Cesar Ramirez, 22, appeared in court on Monday and Tuesday respectively. Aldana, Salas and Ramirez were charged with engaging in commercial fishing without a valid license.
Aldana was separately charged with attempting to export fishing products without a valid export license and employing persons not in possession of a Belizean work permit. Magistrate Leslie Hamilton fined Aldana $2,000 for the last offence which she paid immediately, but she did not have her attorney present for the other charges on Tuesday and so all three were remanded until Friday when the case returns to court.
Fisheries authorities say they have been closely monitoring Aldana, having received reports that she has persuaded locals to catch and sell her the sea cucumber for $5-$8 per pound in closed season, only to turn around and sell it for $21 per pound to her buyers who export it through Guatemala.