Safer and more sustainable lobster fishing in Nicaragua

Learning from one another – Nicaraguan and Mexican fishers come together

Nicaraguan fishers using an artificial shelter. ©FAO


It is a tough job catching lobsters, say fishers from Nicaragua’s Northern Caribbean coast.

Fishing for the tenacious crustaceans can often involve accidents and even deaths. One of the main risks comes from the use of scuba tanks or hooka systems (air compressors often made of beer steel drums with long breathing hoses) for deep water fishing. This often leads to accidents, given that most of the fisher folk have no training in diving.

But there are ways to make lobster fishing safe, and Nicaraguan fishers are now much better equipped to face the dangers of their job.

It all started a few years ago when thirty Nicaraguan fishers traveled to Mexico’s Quintana Roo and Yucatán regions – thanks to an initiative of FAO and the Nicaraguan and Mexican Institutes of Fisheries and Aquaculture - to learn about safer capture technologies.

These involved learning how to build and use artificial shelters and folding traps as well as find the right spots to place them.

Using artificial shelters and folding traps means fishers don’t need to use hooka or scuba tanks as they can catch lobsters in shallower waters and with lesser risks.

Lobsters like to hide under any sort of structure from rock ledges, coral heads to thick vegetation. That’s why the artificial shelters – stone slabs resting on iron or concrete stilts – can make a great holding spot for lobsters. They enter under them voluntarily, often to reach bait, and remain there.

Some of the Nicaraguan fishers who participated in the study tour (left). Nicaraguan fishers learn from Mexican fishers how to build an artificial shelter to make lobster fishing safer. ©FAO

“Before we were fishing for lobsters with a hook, and we had to do very deep dives. There were many accidents as we used to rely on scuba tanks or hooka that often had defective air compressors that allowed oil or gases in shallower waters in the hose,” said Ercito Alberto Brooks, one of the Nicaraguan fishers.

During the study tour in Mexico, the Nicaraguan fishers were also exposed to a range of fishing “fields” – grassy, muddy and sandy rock – to learn to use the best techniques for each.

They also visited processing plants to find out how to better handle, store and market their lobsters.  

But fishers learnt more than just making lobster fishing safer and more marketable. They also took back home more sustainable fishing practices, and they passed on everything they learnt to their peers.

“What I liked about the Mexican fishers is that they released lobsters that were too small or those that laid eggs, and that they complied with all the sustainability measures,” said Víctor Alvarado Fox who has been a fisher for over two decades.  

Nicaraguan fishers visited lobster processing plants in Mexico to find out how to better handle, store and market their lobsters. ©FAO

“This is the first time I participated in something like this. Everything that we have learnt we are applying and multiplying in our communities,” said Ronaldo Calistro Anijol, another fisher who participated in the study tour.

Knowing how to catch lobsters more safely has translated into more work and income for communities of the Northern Caribbean autonomous region in Nicaragua that often struggle to make ends meet.

Building on the knowledge gained during the tour, and with further technical support from FAO and various other measures introduced by the Nicaraguan fisheries authorities, fishers have increased their lobster exports and income by 40 percent whilst fatal accidents due to unsafe practices have reduced by 40 percent.

“FAO has identified success stories of lobster fishers who went through a similar difficult situation as the Nicaraguan fishers and managed to overcome it. The experiences of Mexico’s and Cuba’s fishers are invaluable. We are pleased to have made this exchange possible, and will continue to encourage learning and sharing across the region,” said Ivan Leon, FAO Representative in Nicaragua.

FAO has worked with the Nicaraguan and Mexican Institutes of Fisheries and Aquaculture and regional fishery bodies in Northern Caribbean (Nicaragua) and Quintana Roo and Yucatán (Mexico) as part of a South-South technical cooperation between the two countries, facilitated by the UN agency.

The FAO-supported initiative on safer and more sustainable lobster fishing includes educational exchanges between Mexico and Nicaragua, development of training courses and pilot projects in Nicaragua.  

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8. Decent work and economic growth, 12. Responsible consumption and production, 14. Life below water