My next stop in the Bay Islands was to the island of Guanaja. This island is the furthest of the Bay Islands from the mainland and generally the least visited by tourists. When I arrived by water taxi from the main cay, known locally as Bonacca or just 'the cay', I knew I was in the right place to find lobster fishers. Large boats lined the dock, each with people clearly visible painting and prepping the boats for the start of the lobster season in a couple weeks.
I was staying at a small guesthouse on the main island, so getting back and forth to the cay required a short water taxi ride. While next time I go I will probably stay on the cay to eliminate this hassle, I enjoyed the frequent boat time while I was there.
During my time in Guanaja I was able to team up with staff from a local Honduran organization, Centro de Estudios Marinos (or CEM) who was also there that week to help register fishers across the island. This was part of a big traceability initiative that aims to improve reporting of fish catch by utilizing information from local buyers. CEM has been actively involved in implementing better data collection for smaller artisanal fishers in Honduras whose catch usually goes unrecorded since they fish out of small, dispersed communities and often sell to nearby fish houses who service the local community. However, despite the seemingly benign impact of each single fisher, in many areas the cumulative catch of these fishers can be almost as large or larger than industrial fishing vessels.
While in Guanaja I was able to join CEM, along with the Bay Islands Conservation Assiciation (BICA) and the Guanaja municipality, in distributing electronic tablets to local fish houses for them to report what species they are purchasing, how much they are buying, and what they paid the fishers for each product, including payments of cash, ice or petrol. They are also asked to scan each fishers license to help track fishing activities and ensure only licensed fishers are able to sell their catch.
We also set up shop in local offices for the day to help register fishers and make sure their licences were up to date. We also held meetings with the fishers and fish houses to discuss reporting and the importance of good data collection.
During our time in Savannah Bight we also met with the fishers' association to discuss these programs, as well as other possible initiatives, like setting up a business for the fishers wives to supplement income during seasonal fishery closures and fundraising at the local Carnival.
Unlike some of the other communities where the fisher associations have essentially disbanded, the fishers in Savannah Bight were keen to be involved in fishery's projects and help trial new activities. I was also able to talk to many of them personally about sustainability and learn about some of heir ideas and challenges they face in balancing their need to support their family as well as preserve the local ,marine ecosystem.