Tropical Storm Alex swept across parts of Belize last Saturday. Organizers were called off many activities in anticipation of tropical storm Alex, but in Placencia, the annual lobster fest was staged as planned. News Five’s Isani Cayetano was in the peninsula and found out that despite the celebration of one of our main seafood exports, there has been a decline in its production.
Isani Cayetano, Reporting
The start of the annual lobster season, like many before it, promised a celebration of seafood, great music, and handicraft but as fate would have it this year’s Lobster Fest was marred by heavy rains and severe winds. While San Pedro and Caye Caulker postponed activities for the weekend the Placencia branch of the Belize Tourism Industry Association forged ahead with activities to kick off the season. Despite the underwhelming attendance organizers say they had already invested too much into the event to call it off.
Alicia Dial, Director, Placencia Tourism Center
“We looked at the weather and I know there are a lot of people in the community that have sunk a lot of money into—I don’t wanna say sunk—invested a lot of money into this festival for their food booths and whatnot and Lobster Fest is something that helps a lot of people get through the Maaga Season. And so while maybe today they’re not getting the crowd that they’re use to they’re also having the opportunity to at least recover what they’ve spent, you know, unless NEMO would tell us you can’t have it, who are we to say we’re gonna postpone or cancel? I mean a lot of people don’t have anywhere to store their food or the things that they’ve bought so we decided you know what if we do it we’re the leaders so at least we’ll show that we’re gonna try and we’re really happy and pleased that a lot of our vendors came out and we’ve been out here since ten this morning and if you watch, every hour a few more people, more people are coming out.”
Despite minimal turnout due to inclement weather the chairman of the Placencia Fishermen’s Cooperative says the local fisheries industry is facing a more serious problem. Over the years there has been a growing scarcity of lobster because of an overexploitation of marine resources.
Carlton Young, Chairman, Placencia Fishermen’s Cooperative
“Every year like for the past ten years we’ve had like a decline in the lobster production. That is due to, I think, over fishing and just a general decline in the product itself. The fishermen usually take part in the fishing tournament but due to the weather today we won’t have any fishing tournament.”
“What has the local community done in terms of addressing the issue of scarcity in lobster?”
“Well we try to diversify into other industries. We recently got a grant to do a seaweed farming project through COMPACT and most of our fishermen have diversified into tourism to kinda ease off the pressure on the reef and the lobster fishing.”
“How do you balance the scarcity of lobster as a result of over fishing and the fact that many people travel from far to come here to this location to celebrate lobster?”
“Yeah well I think the government has to do its part by probably limiting fishermen because right now there’s no limit, you could just go in and get a license. I think they have to limit it and just use the traditional fishermen to produce.”
The shortage of crayfish has inevitably hiked up the prices of the delicacy to as much as thirty dollars per plate. Others instead chose to be creative while keeping prices as affordable as possible.
Bill Harding, Vendor, Lobster Fest
“They’re basically tortilla with a little, garlic, onion, cilantro and we got a little dipping sauce to go with it. They’re five dollars each, nice little treat.”
“Is it an original recipe of yours or is it something that you’ve adopted and trying to put on the market out here this weekend?”
“It was from another recipe and I put a little lobster in it and we think it came out pretty good.”
“How does it go over with the buying public who stopped by you your booth?”
“We’ve had extraordinary response and we made some last week and we took them around to some of the people around town and we got overwhelming response so we thought we’d give it a try.”
Along the main street of the peninsula residents and tourists shuffled in the rain while the beachfront was noticeably empty. The weather on Sunday was considerably better across the country and vendors predicted a better turnout on the final day of the festivity. Reporting for News Five, I am Isani Cayetano.