PUERTO CABEZAS – The lobster fisherman of Puerto Cabezas don’t take boats out and cast traps in into the sea. Instead they take groups of men out in boats to dive into the sea to catch the lobsters by hand. It may be less efficient than their counterparts in Atlantic Canada, but it employs nearly 5,000 in this municipality of 320,000.
The problem is there are too many divers and the lobsters in the shallow waters have become less bountiful. That has pushed the divers into deeper waters. We were told that 1,400 divers have become ill from decompression illness. Some have died.
At the offices of the regional government we were told they were like to change the way fisherman gather lobster, but setting traps would employ many fewer in a region that already suffers from high unemployment. Like all Nicaraguan problems, this is one that will have to be solved over time. A new form of employment is needed for those that would be displaced by changing the nature of the fishery.
Puerto Cabezas is on the northern end of the Atlantic coast of Nicaragua. The colonial powers that have come and gone have left the residents speaking both Spanish and a Creole English in addition to the Miskitu language. It has also influenced the housing, a mix of Caribbean and Spanish styles, that is when the four walls aren’t made up of scrap wood and the roof a hunk of tin. Many of the homes here are up on stilts to avoid the flooding from hurricanes that sweep in from the Caribbean.