Warming and Overfishing Threaten Thousands of Fishermen in Central America

By Dialogo
August 10, 2009

Warming waters, overfishing, the use of unsuitable nets, and poaching are threatening the fishing industry in Central America, where around 100,000 families earn their living from this activity, an official said in Panama City. The principal fishing activities in the region are the tuna, shrimp, and lobster industries, but there is also massive participation by small fishermen, said the Fishing and Aquaculture Director of the System of Central American Integration (SICA), Mario González. “The fishing sector at the level of Central America as a whole produces around 1.5 billion dollars a year,” González said, noting nevertheless that this sector may lose its advantages due to the threats it is facing. One of the greatest threats “is warming waters” due to climate change, since the fish “have to migrate and in some cases die,” González indicated in a press conference in Panama City. Other threats are overfishing, the use of unsuitable nets, the abandonment of nets at sea, and illegal fishing, he added. Fishing has always been an economically and socially important activity in the Central American countries due to the number of jobs and the amount of foreign currency that it generates, González said. “In some countries agriculture is declining, and fishing becomes attractive as an alternative,” he indicated. With a 3.5-million-dollar contribution from the Spanish Agency for International Cooperation for Development, SICA will carry out a study to obtain detailed information on the situation of the fishing sector in the region, especially with regard to small fishermen, the official said.