“A veces por querer ganar más, gana nada.”
“Sometimes by wanting to earn more, you earn nothing.”
These words, spoken by a former blast fisherman, stood out to me as we drove back to the offices of the Mangrove Association. A group of six of us had spent the morning interviewing both former blast fishermen and fishermen in the process of leaving the practices of blast fishing behind.
As of early July, three students who are currently receiving scholarships through the Viva Fund began their community service hours at the Mangrove Association. For their first project, they are collecting data on blast fishing in Puerto Parada.
At first, many of the fishermen gathered in Puerto Parada were hesitant to speak with the students. Many were afraid to answer the questions and wanted to know how the information would be used.
As the students spoke with the fishermen however, the fishermen began to open up and share their experiences from working in the Bay of Jiquilisco.
We heard stories of accidents resulting in the loss of limbs, run-ins with the police, and diminished catch over the years. While each person’s story was unique, they all highlighted the lack of other viable options as their reason for continuing fishing with explosives, despite understanding the danger to both themselves and the environment.
Without other alternatives, in the past these men continued to fish with explosives, risking their limbs- and their lives- with every trip, being caught in the method by the necessity to earn a living.
Now however, that is changing.
The fishermen have begun to organize into cooperatives, finding alternative solutions to transition from fishing with explosives to fishing in a sustainable manner. These cooperatives provide a place of support, discussion, and exploration into other opportunities to generate income. The fishermen recognize the importance of fishing sustainably in order to protect themselves, their children, and the bay.
Over two separate meetings, we have collected stories from 15 fishermen and will continue to gather as many as we can, using the information to increase our understanding of the complex issues that push fishermen into blast fishing and to figure out how to best support these men and women in their journey towards “pesca limpa” or sustainable fishing. In the words of one of the community leaders, “Tenemos que enfrentar la crisis económica con inteligencia, no acostados en la hamaca, ni con bombas” “We must face the economic crisis with intelligence, not lying down in the hammock and not with bombs.”