Four Fishermen from the north were today fined almost $10,000 in court after they were found in possession of a large number of undersized conchs.
The men, namely 26 year old Wilson Hernandez and 24 year old Aldo Hernandez both of Sarteneja Village, along with 26 year old Alexie Babb, of Chunox Village and 38 year old Ubaldino Sandoval, of San Estevan Village, appeared before Magistrate Carlon Mendoza today where they were unrepresented and pleaded guilty to a single count each of possession of undersized conchs.
The men were caught yesterday, March 14th, 2017 at the Northern Fisherman Cooperative on North Front Street, Belize City at around 5:50 p.m., by Fisheries Officer, Mark Gentle of the Belize Fisheries Department and after conducting routine searches, Wilson Hernandez was found in possession of 40 undersized conchs, while his brother, Aldo Hernandez was found in possession of 150 undersized conchs. Babb was found in possession of 100 undersized conchs while Sandoval was also found in possession of a whopping 150 undersized conchs.
While in court the men maintained that as fishermen they try to do the right thing while at sea but that in this case, they all claimed they did not know that the conchs were undersized.
Magistrate Mendoza said he understood their cry but that he also has to make sure that a balance is maintained in the fishing industry so that the products are not depleted by fishermen at sea.
All five men were fined $100 for the offense along with a $5.00 court fee which they were ordered to pay by July 15th, 2017 or in default one month imprisonment.
But when it came to the additional penalty for the amount of undersized conchs, the men were slapped with additional fines. In the case of Wilson Hernandez, he was fined $20 for each conch or $800 to be paid by July 15th, in default, three months imprisonment.
Aldo Hernandez was also fined $20 per conchs, which amounted to $3,000 more in fines, of which he has until July 15th, 2017 to pay in default, six months imprisonment.
Babb was also fined $20 for each conchs, he had 100 adding $2,000 to previous fines in default, six months imprisonment.
Sandoval who was in possession of the most undersized conchs was lucky to be slapped with the minimal fine for each conchs at $20.00 amounting to $3,000 for the 150 undersized conches and was ordered to pay at same deadline, in default, six months imprisonment.
This was not the first for Sandoval who had previous convictions for fisheries offenses and owed the court $500 which he was ordered to pay forthwith, which he was able to meet.