Yucatan lobster. (Photo: Secretaría de Fomento Agropecuario y Pesquero)
Bad start to lobster season in Yucatan
Monday, July 30, 2012, 05:00 (GMT + 9)
With less than one tonne caught within 25 days, the lobster fishing season in the state of Yucatan was classified as "bad to worse" by the State Director of Fisheries and Aquaculture.
"Although last year's red tide was not toxic, it generated a lot of waste that was left on the seabed and therefore, the species kept moving because the lobster is migratory, it moves from Central America to Quintana Roo and many of them continue their way to Yucatan," said Delfin Quezada Domínguez.
The coastal fishermen that were the most affected by the red tide are those from the communities of San Felipe, Rios Lagartos, El Cuyo, Coloradas, Dzilam Bravo and Celestún.
From 1 July, when the fishing season began on the producing areas of the Yucatan Peninsula, catches have been very low "because by this time a volume of between six and eight tonnes had been reported" in previous years.
In 2011, about 300 tonnes of whole lobster were caught, or about 180 tonnes of tails (the part that is used) for MXN 300 million (USD 22.1 million).
It is expected that next weekend about 35 more ships from the larger fleet will arrive at ports, on board of which some 300 fishermen are employed.
The leader of a fishing cooperative in the municipality of Isla Mujeres, in the state of Quintana Roo, says that poaching is what has led to one of the worst seasons in recent years as to lobster capture.
And he forecasts a bleak picture for the sector.
"In Isla Mujeres it is a total disaster. The lobster poachers captured the specimens regardless of the ban or anything and therefore, there is no product today. But what is worse is that we know about it, we know that poachers operate under the complicity of the authorities, and nothing can be said to them because they get angry and become very aggressive and threatening," Baltazar Gómez Catzin told Diario de Quintana Roo.
For Gómez Catzín, the only solution to the problem is that the fishermen themselves should be aware of the importance of respecting the lobster closure periods.
Taking into account the recommendations of the National Fisheries Institute (Inapesca), fisheries authorities determined that the minimum legal size should be 135 mm in length from the abdomen and that a prohibition of fishing for females in breeding stages should be introduced.
Lobster production in the Yucatan peninsula is made up in its 99 per cent of the species Panulirus argus and the remaining 1 per cent of Panulirus guttatus, reported the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock, Rural Development, Fisheries and Food (Sagarpa).
According to the Secretariat, some 1,300 fishermen on board 317 small-scale boats and 27 larger vessels, are involved in the capture of this crustacean.
The lobster fishing season will end on the last day of February 2013.
By Analia Murias