This morning as we were getting started, a member of the National Congress entered our training and spoke for a few minutes. But more importantly, he listened for a while. He wanted to hear what we were teaching the boat captains. Just a little while after that, presumably after speaking to the congressman outside, a crew from the La Ceiba television station and a photographer from the newspaper showed up and watched our training for a while—the odds are good we will be on the evening news.
The government had decided to close the lobster fishery all together in Honduras. But after pressure from the divers and the boat owners (and the rest of the fishing industry) they have decided on a two-year extension. But in that time, they dive community has to make serious steps to fix the problems. The government wants to see the number of divers injured each year drop off sharply. Actually, the government has made no promises after this two year extension, but the boat owners believe if they can fix things, the government will allow them to continue.
Over the last three days, Dr. Mejia and I put on an eight hour training program for 54 dive boat captains touching on everything from oxygen first aid, to stocking first aid kits, to how to prepare and use a Foley Catheter. We prepared certificates of completion for each of the participants to show what they had done. We just found out that the boat captains association (APICAH) has laminated those certificates and boat captains will be required to display them (along with other certificates showing their equipment is in good working order) or they will not be allowed to leave the dock and harvest lobster once the season reopens in July. That is a tremendous step, and is also an indication of why every boat captain has taken the training so seriously.
I can only hope that more organizations with a stake in the lobster industry in Honduras get involved and work to make things better. It’s not a simple fix. It’s not the “evil boat captains” taking advantage of the divers. It’s not the “drugged out divers” not following the rules and getting hurt. Neither of those things exists–at least not as a group. Everyone has a role to play to fix the problem, keep more divers healthy and protect the fisheries here in Honduras. They will have to work together to do it. Things look promising from here on out, though. We will just have to wait and see to make sure each group follows through on its plans.
More later, but after the conversations I have had on this trip with the stakeholders in the industry, I am more encouraged than before.