Hurricane Earl swept through Belize since August but months later the damages left in its trail are multiplying. Several of eighteen fishermen on the island of Caye Caulker say they need significant help to recover from hurricane Earl, which threatens more damage to an industry that has already seen significant damage in other areas such as shrimp farming. Correspondent Aaron Humes has the report.
Aaron Humes, Reporting
More than a month after Hurricane Earl, the Caye Caulker representative for Managed Access with the Fisheries Department and long-time fisherman, Eluterio Lopez, says the area which draws many fishermen to hunt lobster, conch and fish has not recovered.
Eluterio Lopez, Fisherman
“Basically we’re here gathered today, because we are concerned that we’re not getting the help that we were expecting. Usually we on Caye Caulker are left for last, but this time it is not only about Caye Caulker; it’s about the fishermen from San Pedro, the fishermen from Long Caye. We have fishermen from Sarteneja that comes over here and even they have found a lost—not only because they are affected outside by the environment under the water. We have the marine environment is messed up now. The area that used to fish, they are not fishing anymore. Some of the coral patches are broken down. Some of the caves outside the barrier reef where you usually find lobsters, they are not there anymore; they are covered with sea fans and they are not fishing anymore. So it is not only about people who have traps; it is even people who are not depending on traps. We need some kind of assistance. Most of us here…I myself, have about sixty-six traps in one of my areas and I have twelve on the other side. Totally, I only found about thirty-two or thirty-three of them that I have found. I am thankful that I am able to survive with that. Usually how I used to do it, I dive my traps and then if there is nothing there, I go and dive outside—this is about thirty-forty feet deep. This is what we have to do now because there is less fishes in the sea, right.”
Fellow fisherman Porfilio Guzman claims the hurricane destroyed a significant majority of his and the other approximately one hundred fishers’ equipment on La Isla Carinosa.
Porfilio Guzman, Fisherman
“It’s big, it’s big; I guarantee you that just the lobster fishermen weh have the traps and the raft, you are talking about maybe half a million dollars or maybe more in damages in traps because each fisherman would have about one hundred traps. You have some weh have four hundred, some got five hundred and the smallest fisherman would have like a hundred trap. And they lost all…value it at seventy-five dollars, each trap.”
There were many tales of woe. Guzman said he hadn’t seen this level of damage to the fishing industry on the island since Hurricane Keith, sixteen years ago. And the fishing slowdown extends to the island’s restaurants, which have not been getting the level of produce they need as seafood capital of Belize.
Charles Rubio Jr.
Charles Rubio Jr., Fisherman
“The fishermen supply the restaurants with lobster so that when the tourists come in the restaurants can provide lobster on the table. But right now it is not like that due to the hurricane. Lot of these fishermen get so pretty hurt. Imagine somebody got six hundred lobster traps and you only end up with a hundred left, it’s really hurt you know.”
But what most hurts some fishermen – like two we spoke with, Ian Forte and Marty Rodriguez, is that this is the sole way they earn a living for their families.
Ian Forte, Fisherman
“I have three kids, I have two girls and one boy; my oldest girl goes to Saint Catherine’s in the city. My fishing, I am a tour guide as well and I do fishing as well in the slow time. This is when I depend a lot on fishing and it helps to pay for the bill. It helps to pay for my daughter’s passage, for food and even for my kids here. So it a big strain now that I find it even harder to provide for them for the loss that I’ve had.”
“And of course for the others like yourself who have supplementary income, this helps to offset other expenses that you have?”
Marty Rodriguez, Fisherman
“Of course. All the plans and preparations for other stuff, you have to change and put priority first. So what is for Peter, yo have to take and pay Paul.”
Aaron Humes reporting for News Five.
Information to News Five is that the fishermen are expected to get help, but details are not forthcoming and the persons in direct charge of fisheries – C.E.O. Colin Young and Fisheries Administrator Beverly Wade have not been available for comment.