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June 2013    Download the Entire Issue (PDF) Available to the Public Vol. 39, No. 6   RSS Feed for Undercurrent Issues
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Will Honduras End Scuba Diving for Lobster?

from the June, 2013 issue of Undercurrent   Subscribe Now

Statistically, fishing is one of the world's most dangerous professions, and it is hard to imagine what could be worse than scuba diving for lobster along the remote, impoverished Miskito Coast of Honduras and Nicaragua. The dangers of this profession have been graphically documented. According to Smithsonian marine biologist Stephen Box, who has been working with the Miskito community, there are about 3,500 people who depend on the lobster fishery for their livelihoods, of which it is estimated that 1,300 are divers. Box estimates that scuba diving for lobster results in about 120 cases of decompression sickness per year, of which around 20 are fatal.

In 2009, as part of a Central American-wide agreement, governments acknowledged the human and environmental damage resulting from this fishery, and committed to ban scuba diving for lobster by 2011. That was later extended to July 1, 2013 to allow Honduras and Nicaragua, the last two countries still using scuba diving in that capacity, more time to transition the fishing communities to better practices and alternative livelihoods.

Unfortunately, last month, despite having already developed a national transition plan, the Nicaraguan legislature voted to override the regional agreement, and extend scuba diving for lobster for three more years. During this time, they could continue to transition away from diving to other fishing practices and alternative livelihoods, but skeptics fear there is now a track record of postponement, and in the meantime the divers will keep getting bent, paralyzed and die as they try to survive in the poorest and most forgotten part of Central America. Now all eyes have turned to the government of Honduras...

For the rest of this in-depth story, written by Miguel Jorge for National Geographic's "Ocean Views" blog, go to

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