Thursday, April 25, 2013


For decades, the arrest of traditional fisherfolk in the Gulf of Fonseca, shared by El  Salvador, Honduras, and Nicaragua, has been used as an excuse by these  governments to deflect public scrutiny from their internal problems. Declarations  and threats in “defense of their sovereignty” result in “Joint Declarations” where they offer to turn the Gulf into a paradise of brotherhood.  

And the fisherfolk? 

They are arrested once again, robbed, wounded, and even murdered.

With an area slightly larger than three thousand square kilometers, the Gulf provides sustenance to thousands of fishing families and fish traders. Meanwhile, the surrounding watersheds are mismanaged and they drain pesticides and polluting nutrients onto the coasts. The shrimp aquaculture industry destroys billions of individual native species in various stages of development as they are trapped by hundreds of suction pumps. The polluted waters of shrimp farms and “larval laboratories” go straight towards the estuaries and the sea, affecting biodiversity in the mangroves and waterways that are themselves being destroyed, not only by the shrimp farms, but by sugarcane fields, melon farms, and others. 

The fisherfolk are ever growing in numbers and their fishing gear is becoming more  lethal. The nets have no limits and are doubled-up to keep small species from  escaping. The gunpowder explodes in the estuaries that are also crossed from  shore to shore by “fishing bags.” Marine species cross “without regard” the national  borders. Fisherfolk are right behind them and right behind them in turn are the  authorities who arrest them without giving them receipts for the confiscated catch,  gear, and fine, while they violate their human rights. 

Most of the arrests are made within the gulf itself, and this is why national borders  need to be clearly marked. But what would be more advisable is the joint execution  of an Integrated Management Plan for Coastal Resources. This way arrests could  be avoided, fisheries could recover, and the death throes of the Gulf could be  stopped, a gulf that is becoming a “Dead Gulf.” 

The disputed use of the gulf¹s mouth to the Pacific Ocean by Honduras must be dealt with without delay in the Security Council of the United Nations, and if necessary with Nicaragua in the Haya international Court. The solution is in diplomacy, not in the armed forces. It¹s outrageous to see how some governments adjust their laws so that they can hand over their natural resources, roads, harbors and other infrastructure to transnational companies and small local groups of wealthy individual people, while they attack the general population whose common problem is poverty, and who, in the end, are only those that need careful sustainable development, not an arms build-up.

Jorge Varela Márquez
International Goldman Prize, 1999

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