Where have all the lobsters gone?

The Island Newspaper, Ambergris Caye, Belize            Vol. 11, No. 25            June 21, 2001

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Caribeña Co-op workers pack lobsters for shipping

Friday, June 15th marked the beginning of the lobster season. For many fishermen of San Pedro this is a much anticipated day. At long last they reap the benefits of their long hours of building lobster traps (nasas) and shades (habitats) and the numerous hours spent watching these items so their products are not stolen. To the dismay of many of these fishermen, this year's lobster harvest was considered one of their worst ever.

    Local fishermen start their day at sea as early as 4:00 a.m. to improve their chances of a good catch. Some of them traveled several miles to the locations where they had placed their traps and shades. One needs to bear in mind that some of these fishermen own from 70 to 300 shades and 50 to 250 traps. With this amount of fishing gadgets one would think that surely the catch would be productive. Although for some, things were not as bad as for others, the overall consensus was that something was definitely wrong this year. 

    In speaking with several disappointed fishermen, the San Pedro Sun was informed of many explanations, one being that Hurricane Keith swept these crustaceans to another area. Another explained that most of the juvenile lobsters mature among the mangrove roots and because the hurricane struck Ambergris Caye from the west their habitat was severely damaged. One fisherman commented, "On the first day of the season one boat would normally bring in about 400-500 pounds of lobster and this year we only averaged 150 pounds. We would also stay to guard our traps and shades for a few days after the season opened because we still had lobsters remaining from the first day, but this time there is nothing left." Another concern was that some members are selling lobster directly to restaurants and other businesses, rather than supporting the cooperative.

    The San Pedro Sun remained at the Caribeña Cooperative until the end of the day when it was confirmed by Mr. George Kumul that the total amount of lobster received was 1067 pounds. This is only about one third of the total amount that was received last year, which was 3488 pounds. Fishermen hope this was only a game of "hide and seek" from these delectable crustaceans so that both they and lobster lovers can enjoy the benefits from this industry.

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