On October 13th “El Diario de Hoy,” one of the main news sources in El Salvador published an article on blast fishing in the Bay of Jiquilisco, mis-quoting the information provided by the fishermen. EcoViva elaborated the following Letter to the Editor, which allows us to clarify the current situation of blast fishing in the Bay. The original article, in Spanish, can be found here.
In reference to your October 13th article entitled “The use of explosives increases in the Bay”, I would like to respectfully provide a clarification.
The article published in your newspaper implies that 650-700 fishers currently employ explosives as their primary fishing activity in the Bay of Jiquilisco. According to that data collected in 2008 by the Eastern Pacific Hawksbill Initiative (ICAPO), and quoted in your article, this represents nearly a 600% increase in the known use of explosives in the Bay since 2008.
The article summarily mis-characterizes the information provided to your publication’s reporter by local informants. During the interview for this article held on Sept 25. in the offices of the Salvadoran Navy in Puerto Triunfo, members of the small scale fishing sector and community leadership suggested that between 650 and 700 fishers had, historically, used explosives as part of their rural livelihood in the Bay of Jiquilisco. In contrast to the reporting in the article, these 650-700 are characterized by communities as the number “ex-blast fishers”, a local term used to describe fishers who have at one time or another used explosives in the fishery.
It was never implied during the interview that 650-700 fishers currently employ this destructive and dangerous practice today. This same number, which estimates the historic use of explosives by “ex-blast fishers” in the Bay of Jiquilisco, and not the current dynamic, is also confirmed in an article published in La Prensa Grafica on Oct. 14th.
Because blast fishing is an illegal, unreported and unregulated activity, it is exceedingly difficult to discern the exact extent of fishers who currently use explosives because of the fear of reprisal. Instead, local organizations have identified known locales in the fishery where blast fishing occurs, and resolved to increase monitoring and enforcement in these areas alongside the National Police, Navy, municipal governments, and fisheries authorities (CENDEPESCA). With the support of international cooperation like the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, EcoViva and the InterAmerican Foundation, over 52 sites have been identified and are now patrolled by small-scale fishers themselves.
Since 2009, community leadership in the Bay of Jiquilisco, alongside the support from NGOs and government authorities, have converted over 200 local fishers from blast fishing to more sustainable fishing techniques. Many of these converted fishers now serve as local leaders, striving to dissuade the practice among their peers on a daily basis.
The recent turtle mortalities in El Salvador is a tragedy that should draw the attention of all actors in the Bay of Jiquilisco. But the very fact that these turtle mortalities were reported at all is testament to the enforcement efforts of local resource guards, and increased local awareness among fishers and their local communities. Current inter-institutional efforts to combat and understand the blast fishing dynamic in the Bay of Jiquilisco should not go unnoticed. It is important that these processes be supported moving forward, if El Salvador hopes to rein-in the destructive practice of blast fishing in Central America’s most extensive coastal estuary, and one of the region’s most significant Hawskbill habitats.
We greatly appreciate your publication’s continued interest in the Bay of Jiquilisco, and would welcome the opportunity to speak with your reporters again in the foreseeable future.
Program and Policy Director