March 12, 2010 – Original Source: AFP
Central American shrimp and lobster populations are being threatened by illegal fishing and climate change, experts said on Thursday.
The decline of such species is a huge impact on the two-billion-dollar-a-year fishing industry and could affect as many as 136,000 jobs.
“Pollution and warmer waters are impacting our species,” especially shrimp and lobster, said Mario Gonzalez, director of the Central American Organization of the Fisheries and Aquaculture Sectors (OSPESCA).
Decreasing rainfall has been one of the main causes for the dramatic decline in “the Pacific shrimp population, Panama excluded…which depletes the nutrients they feed on,” said Gonzalez. Overexploitation also has had a huge impact on the species, and lobster is in jeopardy of disappearing altogether.
Illegal fishing is another cause for the rapid decline of populations. “Of the total amount delivered to fish processing plants, approximately 20 to 30 percent is illegal or undersized,” he added.
“You can say that in Central America 50 percent of our (fishing) production goes undeclared or not reported, not only by private fishermen but also by large fisheries,” Gonzalez told AFP.
“There’s a regional policy (on fishing), but it’s just included in documents which have to be turned into action in order to better manage our fish stocks,” OSPESCA interim president Diana Arauz said.
The troubling conditions have been brought to the attention of regional governments.
Members of the Central American Integration System, which includes El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, Guatemala, Costa Rica and Panama, have recently banned lobster fishing from March 1 to June 30 with the hope it will give the species a chance to make a comeback, officials said.
Lobster and shrimp fishing in Central America accounts for 4.1 percent of the regional gross domestic product, OSPESCA and the UN Food and Agriculture Organization said in a report.