Seguridad en la pesca

A practical guide on safe hookah diving- Diving for sea cucumbers and other marine organisms


The gathering of commercial benthic organisms from the seabed by underwater fishers is a growing activity in many regions in Africa, Asia, Pacific, Latin America and the Caribbean. Sea cucumbers are particularly targeted, as they are in great demand and command high market prices in Asian markets. Fishing and trading of these holothurians have attracted the interest of many people, particularly trade intermediaries, who often employ local fishers with little or no underwater diving experience. Generally poorly equipped, the fishers are often forced to work long hours with no concerns over their state of physical health and psychophysical suitability for the strenuous and dangerous activity of diving. In many regions, sea cucumber fishers operate with compressed air supplied by hookah systems frequently powered by unsuitable or improvised compressors. Furthermore, because of the declining number of specimens in shallow waters in many fishing grounds, divers increasingly search for resources at greater depths and for prolonged periods, often unaware or ignoring dive decompression tables and other safe diving practices. Working under such poor conditions, often with inadequate support from the boat assistant, makes hookah diving a risky and unsafe activity. It may lead to accidents that may result in the death or permanent disability of fishers, who generally operate in locations far from medical facilities capable of providing hyperbaric treatment and first aid. This guide aims at providing fishers, as well as fishery extension officers, with a tool to acquire the basic knowledge needed to carry out hookah diving safely. Through simple language and numerous illustrations, the guide describes the basic rules of diving, the potential risks associated with this activity and what to do to minimize them, as well as other useful tips to improve hookah diving operations. The guide, however, is not intended as a comprehensive manual for commercial divers. Rather, it is strongly recommended that fishers who want to engage in hookah or SCUBA diving receive appropriate training by a qualified diving instructor. The guide is divided into two parts. The first part is intended for fishery extension officers to help them understand the risks of hookah and SCUBA diving and to provide them with information that should increase good practices for this type of fishing. The second part is intended for the fishers themselves; it outlines the risks associated with hookah diving and recommends practices that should help prevent any work-related accident associated with this diving practice.