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Lobster Fishing in Mexico


[Narrator] Can marine conservation and
fishing go hand in hand? Punta Allen is a cooperative fishing village on Mexico’s
Atlantic coast. It stands as a success story in supporting both its population
and the environment. [Emilio Perez] Ever since the Punta Allen
community began, the people that live here, the ones that started the community, have
protected the environment, have rationed properly what we
take from the sea. [Victor Bareira] Throughout the years,
we found an easier way to capture lobster, which brought better benefits to the
cooperative. [Dr. Juan Carlos Seijo] They do it by free-
diving, and that’s also part of the agreement they have on how to fish. They don’t use the
classic stick and hook to get the lobster. They agreed to protect it so they use hand
nets to grab the lobster. When one uses either a speargun or a stick and hook,
once you have hit them, you have damaged the lobster. So even if it is a juvenile or
a berried female, there is no solution. That is why they have this friendly gear. [Emilio Perez] In 1972, fishermen decided
to create fishing lots. The entire Ascension Bay is divided into lots. Each fisherman
can place as many “sombras,” or artificial shelters as he needs. [Dr. Juan Carlos Seijo] These artificial
shelters, they are not traps, they are shelters. They lift a little bit the shelter
so that they, the lobsters, will go to the end, and some lobsters go out. So with
the hand net, they obtain. [Emilio Perez] In one day, a fishermen may
visit 50 or 60 “sombras.” He captures the lobster, and returns to the boat. And that’s
when the captain’s work begins. My work. This consists of identifying juveniles and
female lobsters with eggs, then setting them free. This allows the lobster to
run free. To continue with its routine. And, to continue growing. [Victor Bareira] Now we can do sustainable
fishery. We can capture the lobster alive. If the lobster has eggs, we put it back in
the water. And small lobsters we put back in the water too. We can sell the entire lobster. We are
making the most of the product. And economically, this is bringing more
benefits to the cooperative. [Dr. Juan Carlos Seijo] In 2013, we had the
highest precipitation rate in the area. Perhaps as a result of one of the effects
of extreme events associated to climate change. When you have too much
rain in the area, the freshwater inflow increases. And lobsters are very sensitive
to salinity. And so it really affected the redistribution of lobsters. The
fascinating part of this is the solidarity of the community. Those
fishermen that were having most of their lots in the areas where
freshwater inflow was increasing and reducing salinity levels, they were invited
to go fishing with those who had lots where the higher densities were. So they
were able to have income. So that’s called adaptation to climate change. That also
is called generosity and solidarity. [Victor Bareira] We know this is a
gold mine. And if we destroy it, sooner or later we will suffer the consequences. To tell you the truth, Punta Allen is a
paradise. This paradise exists because the people
who live in this community are cooperating to preserve it. [Dr. Juan Carlos Seijo] We continue to
learn from them. From what they know about the resource, but also the way they socially
interact. Their sense of solidarity, their sense of community, their generosity are
values that had to be learned by us.

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