Fish landings are diminishing in the Bahía de Amatique, following a worldwide trend. There are several causes, some more evident
than others, acting on different scales and involving different issues. Some of the most evident causes have a biophysical nature, such
as overfishing and pollution. These evident causes are actually the effects of other, less evident, social and economic drivers, such as
the presence of intermediaries, reducing profit to fishers. All have consequences for the livelihoods of coastal populations. Many are
linked in cause-effect relations.
2 0 0 8
I will try to understand how these cause-effect relations work, and how they can be disrupted to ameliorate the livelihoods of artisanal
fishers and their communities. I will do so through the analysis of a case study: the “Red de Pescadores Artesanales del Caribe
Guatemalteco y Lago de Izabal” (Red) -Network of the artisanal fishers of the Guatemalan Caribbean and of Lake Izabal- based in
Livingston, Guatemala. The Red was established on the 2nd of February 2004, based on the recognition by fishers of common needs
Valentina Giannini and the determination to find solutions to common problems. I will analyze the projects and goals of the Red in relation to the changes
J u l y
that have taken place since its foundation. I will also propose strategies the Red might consider putting into effect to tackle some of
the bigger scale issues, such as watershed contamination.
FISH, FISHERS, INDUSTRIAL FISHING, INTERMEDIARIES,
In the present situation the Red is waiting for one of its first projects “Centro de servicios para la pesca artisanal en el Golfo de
WATERSHED CONTAMINATION, SEA CONTAMINATION.
Honduras” (CESPAGOH), the fish processing center in Livingston, to start its operations. The idea behind the CESPAGOH was to
CAN A VIRTUOUS BEHAVIOR DISRUPT VICIOUS CHAINS?
I t a l y,
increase the price per unit of fish caught through local value-added industries, thus diminishing pressure on the resource. This project
represents a good opportunity to understand the effects of avoiding intermediation on the economy of local communities, establishing
Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies whether this is an option for conservation.
Master Thesis, April 2007
R o m e ,
• There is anecdotal evidence of fisheries decline in the Bahia de Currents in the area are predominantly westward along the coast
Amatique (Heyman et al. 2000; personal communications, 2006). of Honduras, and southward along the coast of Belize (Thattai et
• Not enough data collected to describe the historic trends of fish-
The waters of the Bahia de Amatique are visibly contaminated.
eries decline. Monitoring of the trends should start immediately. VIRTUOUS BEHAVIOURS There are several causes:
• Overfishing has several origins; commercial fishing is one of Ecosystem-based fisheries • The two harbors of the Bahía, Puerto Barrios and Santo Tomas
de Castilla, house a hydrocarbon terminal and ship terminals
them. Guatemalan Law describes in detail the technologies that
are allowed, but the implementation and enforcement of the Law
management (FUNDAECO 2001:8).
s y s t e m s — FA O
Most of fisheries management is done through considerations Looking at the relevant watersheds, we see that the Rio Dulce-
are judged unsatisfactory by fishers and conservationists based only on one species at a time, taking into account only the
Polochic system has its estuary in the Bay and the Rio Montagua
(personal communications, 2006). management of one species, not reporting damages to the habitat has its estuary further east; thus, because of the water currents,
or to other species, e.g., bycatch (Zabel et al. 2003:156). In con- its waters might reach Punta Manabique, and possibly circulate
• Artisanal fishers can also be responsible for overfishing (Pauly et trast to this behavior, several studies show that fisheries manage- into the Bay (personal communication, 2006). This assumes
al. 2005:5). Some of the fishing techniques used in the area, as ment has to be ecosystem-based (Pikitch 2004:346; list of authors relevance because of several issues. Guatemala has no sewage
for example trawling, can be held responsible. Local fishers are cited in Pauly et al. 2003:1359). This approach was confirmed in treatment system, and roughly 3.7 million people--or one third of
aware of the problem and want to be part of the solution the World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD) held in the total population--live in these two watersheds, which include a
(personal communications, 2006).
2002 in Johannesburg, in which the way towards ecosystem-based Integrated coastal zone portion of Guatemala City (www.guateagua.org.gt 2007).
fisheries management was indicated (Pauly et al. 2005:6).
Fishers have already been proactive in problem solving, as testi-
management • Looking at a land-use map, we see that there are large portions
When managers are setting their objectives, they consider various A growing world population will impact the environment in several dedicated to agriculture, both in the valley plains and on the hill-
fied by the implementation of the Pacto de Caballeros in 1996. impacts and use indicators -ecological, economic and social- to ways: sides. The intensive agriculture can be the origin of nutrients and
Fishers would like to be part of the decision making process for the monitor and evaluate the effectiveness of the management plan pesticides contamination. The hill slopes have evident signs of
(Frid et al. 2006:1567,1568; Jennings 2005:213; Hall et al. 2004:4). • Increased anthropogenic pressure on coasts brings degradation
implementation of the Regulation for the General Law of Fisheries erosion, testified also by the color of the rivers and the sea during
Indicators should measure the pressure by the fishing activity, the and destruction of habitats and declining near-shore water quality,
the rainy season (Burke et al. 2006:21).
and Aquaculture. For example, they feel the closures are not ef- state of the ecosystem, and the response to the management plan which translate into losses of ecosystem services (Olsen et al.
fectively helping to increase fish stock because they are in the (Jennings 2005:216). They must be measured at the relevant scale 2000:7). Land holders in Guatemala are one of the most powerful lobbies.
(Jennings 2005:217). This traces back in history, and in recent times it has perhaps been
wrong seasons (personal communications, 2006). • Demand for food will increase (Tilman et al. 2002:671). Agricul-
the cause –or one of the causes- for the resignation of President
Solutions to the problem will come from: ture will have an increasing impact, through contamination from
Jacobo Arbenz. He thus explained in his resignation speech on
pesticides and fertilizers, which directly pollute marine habitats
The reduction of the fishing effort and the establishment of no- June 29th 1954: “Our crime is having enacted an agrarian reform
(Cicin-Sain et al. 2006:848,851; Tilman et al. 2002:672). Agricul-
s o c i a l - e c o l o g i c a l
take zones (Pauly et al. 2005:10; Pikitch 2004:346; Zabel et al. which affected the interests of the United Fruit Company” (Streeter
ture management has to provide solutions to curb external conse-
2003:157). Reducing fishing capacity, as the FAO Code of Con- 2000:63).
quences of agriculture (Tilman et al. 2002:673).
duct for Responsible Fisheries indicates (Pauly et al.
2002:692,694), and reducing mortality of bycatch species are a Interest in Integrated Coastal Zone Management (ICZM) grew since
step towards ecosystem-based management (Hilborn 2004, the Rio Convention on Environment and Development of 1992
cited in Jennings 2005:227; Hall et al. 2004:17). (Olsen et al. 2000:5). There is a clear interaction between land and
sea; therefore, they should be managed as a whole system in a
• Habitat preservation needs to be one of the issues (Hall et al. governance structure capable of addressing multiple uses in a co-
2004:2). No-take areas are an efficient tool for replenishing fish- herent way (Cicin-Sain et al. 2006:849). Decisions have to be
ing stocks and protecting habitat (Pauly et al. 2002:694). In or- taken at the appropriate scale, encompassing whole ecosystems
der for no-take areas to be effective, life cycles of shrimp and and facilitating the participation of all relevant actors, merging top-
fish extracted have to be investigated. For example, pink shrimp down and bottom-up approaches, national and international agen-
has a larval stage in lagoons and an adult stage in the ocean cies (Cicin-Sain et al. 2006:856; Olsen et al. 2000:9,13). Place-
(Seixas et al. 2003, 404). To protect pink shrimp populations based management has to be integrated with wide strategic initia-
portions of all used habitats have to be preserved. To achieve tives, for the good of both (Olsen et al. 2000:8). The management
this, due to the various interests involved in fisheries, participa- plan has to be tailored to the specific needs and priorities (Olsen et
tion of stakeholders of all levels has to be sought in order for the al. 2000:11). Moreover, the practice of ICZM has to be a learning
management plan to be successfully implemented (Frid et al. process in which the final step of evaluation will bring forward adap-
2006:1571). tations in the management (Olsen et al. 2000:11). In the future it is
• A minimum mesh size for nets is admitted to target only larger - recommendable to move towards community-based integrated
better priced- shrimp, resulting in economic and ecologic advan- coastal resource management plans as has been done in the Phil-
tages (Seixa et al. 2003:402). ippines (Courtney 2000 in Olsen et al. 2000:15).
Red de Pescadores Artesanales del Atlantico Guatemalteco y Lago de Izabal
m a r i n e
The Neoliberal Economic Model has caused the expansion of fish There are mainly three fishing techniques in the Bahía de Amatique used by different groups:
extraction and trade, causing an increase in overfishing and conflict • The Garifuna are anglers: they fish with hook and line (pesca con anzuelo). They have been living here the longest, since 1802, and employ
among interest groups (Thorpe et al. 2000:1689). Drawing on par- wooden boats with small/no engine. They fish for subsistence (J.Arana, personal communication 2006).
allels of coffee cooperatives and certified fair trade, and of the work
of fisher groups elsewhere in Latin America, we can learn some les- • The Ladino population fishes for shrimp with trawlers (red de arrastre). The net is 3 feet high at the center, and 45 feet long; the doors are 3
sons that can be useful for the Red. feet high by 7 feet wide, mesh size 1.5 inches. The net is hauled in by hand; no winches are used. Boats are smaller than 35 feet, and en-
gines are less than 200 hp.
• The most important fact that we have to deal with is the power of
intermediaries, and its negative effect on local small-scale econo- • The Q’eqchi’ and Hindu population fish with gill nets (trasmallo).
mies. One solution that tried to overcome this problem is the Conflicts have arisen among these groups due to the different fishing techniques used. In 1996, with the help of the Alianza Trinacional de
adoption of fair trade certification. The marketing of certified prod- ONGs para la Conservación del Golfo de Honduras (TRIGOH, Tri-national Alliance of NGOs for the Conservation of the Gulf of Honduras), the
ucts is clearly a long term project. However, the only available cer- three groups were able to establish what is called the Pacto de Caballeros (Gentlemen’s Agreement). After this the Red de Pescadores Arte-
tification for fish is given by the Marine Stewardship Council sanales del Caribe Guatemalteco y Lago de Izabal (Red- Network of Artisanal Fishers of the Guatemalan Caribbean and Lake Izabal) was
(MSC); it does not address issues of fair trade. The MSC ecolabel founded thanks to the facilitation of CISP, an Italian based NGO (www.cisp-ngo.org 2007). The Red was mainly founded to achieve solutions to
principles are based on sustainable management practices of the common problems, and thus to coordinate the efforts of fishers (A.Mendez, personal communication 2006). The Red can count on 17 member
fishing activity, as described in FAO’s “Code of conduct for respon- organizations, but five more should join (H.Hidalgo, personal communication 2006).
C h a n g e
sible fisheries” (www.msc.org 2007; www.fao.org 2007). Fishers
pay for MSC certification, but are not always able to derive bene- The first action of the Red was to create the Centro de Servicio para la Pesca Artesanal en el Golfo de Honduras (CESPAGOH, Service Center
fits from it: for some of the certified fisheries there is still no market for Artisanal Fishery in the Gulf of Honduras). It derived from a direct desire of the fishers: to sell their catch directly, avoiding intermediaries.
(A.Saenz, personal communication 2006). The facilitation was led by CISP and FUNDAECO, a Guatemalan NGO.
TRADE AND MARKET • Fair trade certification can be a long-term solution to the problem,
Trade is one of the drivers of fisheries depletion. All the fish caught while another mechanism, forming cooperatives, seems to be
more effective in the short-term, and on the local-scale. Two ex-
in the Bahia de Amatique is commercialized through four-five inter-
amples from the fishery sector seem to point to a solution for the
mediaries who act as a cartel and are thus able to set the price to trade problem based on the same solution as the FT coffee exam-
their advantage (personal communication, 2006). Some fishers in ples: weaken the contracting power of the intermediaries: (i) the
the past have tried to sell their landings directly in the market in Vigía Chico Cooperative, established in Mexico in 1968 by 49
members (Solares-Leal et al 2003:37); (ii) the case of the Ibi-
Guatemala City, but were forced to renounce this practice because
G l o b a l
raquera Lagoon in Brazil (Seixa et al. 2003:399,400).
it was not economically feasible due to the low catches and the
The success of the economic activity of fishers seems to rely in their
high transportation costs.
power to sell fishes by avoiding intermediaries. When a local mar-
Estimates say that the final prices paid by consumers are double – ket can be accessed directly by producers, as in the case of the Ibi-
raquera Lagoon in Brazil described by Seixas (2003), fishers are
or more- of the prices paid to fishers. The price paid by the final
able to avoid intermediaries. However, when the local market is not
buyer is usually 50% to 150% higher than the price paid to the big enough, a cooperative can be the instrument to enable fishers to
fisher by the intermediary (cep.unep.org 2007). have a stronger bargaining power.
The fact that fishers have no access to such information does not
allow them to demand a fair price. The characteristics of the
w i t h
traded good demand freshness, thus constraining the bargaining
capabilities of fishers: fish has to be sold immediately to the avail-
able buyer. CNTRY_NAME
Obtaining a small price per unit of catch, fishers are forced to
strengthen the fishing effort to sustain their livelihoods (personal Guatemala
C o p i n g
communication 2006). This means using fishing techniques that Honduras
cause habitat damage (e.g., trawling) and that do not allow for fish Mexico
to grow to reproducing age (e.g., using nets with small mesh LAND USE
Arbustales de latifoliadas
Areas con escasa vegetación
Bosques decíduos de latifoliadas
Bosques semidecíduos de latifoliadas
Bosques semidecíduos mixtos
Bosques siempreverdes de coníferas
Bosques siempreverdes y semisiempreverdes de latifoliadas
Bosques siempreverdes y semisiempreverdes mixtos
Cuerpos de agua
Pantanos y humedales
0 15 30 60 90 120 Plantaciones forestales
Kilometers Sistemas agropecuarios