I had planning to chat with another Fulbrighter researcher, Austin, in Puerto Morelos, but it did not happen. I wanted to go diving by the reef off the coast to bring back some stories for the Fish Club in Harlem New York.
This used to be a small fishing village, but with the increasing popularity of Cancun resorts, the tourist creep has come to disturb the natural fauna of the Mayan Riviera. I wanted to ask Austin about his work with the lobsters and the fishing rights for indigenous fishing industry. We did not meet, but this is what he emailed me a couple do months ago.
Austin said, “Fishing rights in Quintana Roo are granted to cooperatives, which distribute these rights among their members. The NGO I’m working with has a strong relationship with some of these cooperatives, who have made great strides toward sustainability. In 2012 and 2013, the cooperatives worked with the NGO to set aside some of their fishing concessions to create legally recognized “no take zones,” where fishing would be banned for 5 years in an effort to preserve fishing stocks. When the refuges were established, interviews were carried out with many of the fishermen from multiple cooperatives to assess their understanding of and attitudes toward these no take zones. Now that 4 years have passed and the refuges are coming up for their first round of governmental review, we’re going to repeat that study to see what benefits and costs the fishermen have observed with the refuges, and whether or not they are still in favor of them. Once this project is done, I’m planning on carrying out a more quantitative, economic analysis to see how the annual lobster catch has been affected by the implementation of the reserves, and more specifically, if certain fishermen benefit more from the reserves than others. Finally, plans are in the works to attempt a lobster-tagging study to assess migration of lobsters from protected areas out into fishing grounds, but this is permit-dependent, and I’ve heard the permitting process here is a nightmare.”
So, perhaps in Chetumal I can get some fish-related story for the Fish Club. I will go to two museums that focus on Mayan history and some markets that sell artisan items. I’m excited to go and see what they have!