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EMBARGO THREATENS ATLANTIC SHRIMP INDUSTRY
by Jaime Johnston
by Thomas Tomczyk
Bay Islands economy is based on the fishing industry. The embargo
has already been an enormous social problem for the Bay Islands.
The industry has been unable to pay the loans while the interests
are increasing. However, the biggest problem is among those fishermen
who work on board the boats because there are no more jobs for them.
Many families had to take their child out of school because they
have no money, not even for the minimum of expenses. They have to
seek help with their relatives to be able to get some food. This
problem is no joke. It's ok to protect the turtles, but far more
important are the lives of the human persons, their decency and
their right to go to school and eat their meals," Steven Guillen,
Secretary of APESCA.
are 79 shrimp boats in Honduras' Atlantic fleet. Each boat carries
6-7 crew members and a Captain. In an eight-month season, a vessel
nets between 45,000-55,000 pounds of shrimp, selling for an average
of $2.50-$3.00/pound. Seven of the 12 Atlantic packing plants are
located in the Bay Islands. Employing hundreds of workers shrimp
is approximately 40% of their business volume. The American market
receives almost 100% of Honduran-exported shrimp. In January 2003,
the American government withdrew Honduras' certification as an approved
shrimp exporter, imposing a trade embargo on their commercially-harvested
shrimp. Now, ten months later, the trade restriction remains in
effect and an industry, and the Bay Islands economy, hangs in the
The trade restriction was imposed based on results of an American
inspection on Honduran vessels in December 2002. The U.S. team makes
routine visits to shrimp exporters to verify that each country is
complying with their export regulations and American public law.
For the shrimping industry, the United States has specific legislation
that certifies each country to export the product to the U.S. In
1973, the American government instituted the Endangered Species
Act (ESA), Public Law 101-162, under which it protected all six
species of sea turtles found in coastal waters. Under this act,
it is illegal to harm any sea turtle, including damage caused to
sea turtles by shrimp trawling nets. An American study estimated
that 124,000 sea turtles drown in trawling nets each year. In 1987,
the U.S legislated mandatory use of Turtle Excluder Devices (TED)
on shrimp vessels under the ESA. A TED is a metal grate sewn into
the shrimp nets with an escape flap for turtles and studies have
shown the TED to minimize turtle drownings while protecting the
bulk of the shrimp catch. Each shrimp net must have one TED installed
at a 30-60 degree angle; boats carry approximately four TEDs, costing
In 1989, U.S Congress amended the ESA, adding Section 609 which
stated that exporting countries are required to operate a sea turtle
protection program comparable to that of the United States. The
American government then developed a certification process to establish
countries as qualified or non-qualified to export their shrimp based
on the guidelines of Section 609. In essence, if a country wants
to export their shrimp to the United States, they must either adopt
an American-like program or prove that their shrimp harvesting methods
don't harm the sea turtles, as is the case with farmed shrimp or
manually-harvested shrimp. Alternatively, a nation can prove that
none of the endangered species are found in their national waters.
Under Section 609, 43 nations were certified, 17 of which were certified
through the implementation of sea turtle protection programs. All
seven Central American countries, including Honduras, were certified
through this method.
In January 2003, the U.S. Department of State withdrew Honduras'
certification as a shrimp exporter due to the results of their inspection
in December 2002. According to the U.S State Department, their U.S.
team found that the level of compliance with the Government of Honduras'
regulations regarding the use of TEDs was poor and it was not demonstrated
during that visit that the enforcement efforts of the Government
of Honduras were effective in reviewing vessels on a frequent basis.
Without Section 609 certification, Honduras is restricted from exporting
any commercially-harvested shrimp to the United States. "[In]
one inspection they [US Government] made in December 2002, 3 out
of 10 boats had TEDs inoperative. However, the biggest problem they
found in Honduras was the ineffective governmental control over
the fishing fleet. The Honduran government had no law enforcement
plans and no law enforcement personnel," stated Steven Guillen,
Secretary of APESCA, the Honduran Fishermen's Association. Guillen
noted that the Honduran government imposed fines of 50,000 Lps.
for each vessel which violated TED regulations. He claimed those
fines have been paid in full to the Honduran government.
Throughout the Bay Islands community, there is a widespread theory
that the prolonged duration of the embargo is a result of unresolved
incidents between Americans living on Roatan and local residents.
Some island residents have claimed that the American government
is using the shrimp embargo as leverage to resolve the disputes.
"The position of the U.S. Embassy in Tegucigalpa regarding
other issues on Roatan is not related to a certification
for Honduras under Section 609," stated David Hogan of the
U.S. State Department. This was not the first time that Honduras
lost their American certification as a shrimp exporter. According
to the U.S. State Department, certification was withdrawn in May
2000 due to similar circumstances as the December 2002 inspections.
The embargo was lifted four months later after the Honduran Ministry
of Agriculture and Livestock amended the fishing law to include
fines for TED violations.
Honduran shrimp season opened July 16 and Bay Island boat owners
and crews left port despite the fact that the embargo would prevent
them from exporting their product to the U.S. when they return.
"We sent our boat out because we were promised by our President
that the embargo would be solved," said John McNab, owner of
Roatan's Captain Kyle shrimp boat since 1988. McNab's family owns
six Bay Islands shrimp boats, including brother Olsen McNab's 75-ft
vessel, Miss Amy. "The shrimp is there and we need to catch
them now. If you don't send your boat out, you have no chance of
getting anything. So, we send her out and hope that it will be lifted,"
said Olsen McNab, "It's a chance we're taking." Miss Staci
II, owned by father Karl Olsen McNab, came to port in late October
with 20,000 pounds of shrimp she couldn't discharge. "We'll
leave the product on board and send her out until she's full,"
said John McNab, "If the season was right, this boat should
have 1,700,000 Lps. and, instead, we have nothing."
Barckley, 5-year captain of HyBur's Gee Che Boy II, carried a four-man
crew to sea this year, down three members from last season. "There's
plenty of shrimp, but families are suffering. Fishermen are out
of jobs and I'm worried that we're out there working for nothing,"
said Barckley. Most boats have continued to fish for four months,
counting on the suspension of the embargo. Although John McNab sent
the Captain Kyle back to sea after a brief port, the cost of financing
her is too high if they can't sell product. "If she comes back
in and the situation with the embargo is the same, that boat will
be tied to the dock from then on. You can only afford so much,"
said John McNab, "You have to guarantee your crew's salaries
because it's all they've got. They did the work- how in the world
could I say I can't pay them? I have to find the money somewhere."
In addition to salaries, the McNab brothers estimate boat costs
for a three-month trip as: $19,500 in fuel, 45,000 Lps. in groceries,
$9,000-10,000 in fishing equipment (including nets, cables, trawl
doors). All their fuel is purchased from packing plants and all
groceries are purchased locally.Many packing plants have agreed
to store the boats' shrimp, adding that, if the embargo is lifted,
they may purchase it. For Bay Islands' packing plants, there is
a dilemma between supporting local fishermen and making sound business
decisions. "Two weeks ago, I stopped taking shrimp because
we can't store anymore. I've got inventory of ridiculous amounts,"
said HyBur owner Shawn Hyde, "Between all the packing plants,
I would guess we've packed 600,000 pounds of shrimp and that's a
conservative estimate." During a regular shrimp season, Hyde
employs 140 employees at the plant; there are only 50 working currently.
"The packing plants have gone as far as they can go by advancing
fuel, salaries, storing the shrimp. They can only do so much,"
said Ernesto Muñoz, owner of the shrimp vessel Daybreak.
Hyde is working to investigate markets outside the American industry
and recently gained approval to transship through the United State
to Europe. "Even if the embargo is lifted in December, we will
still have problems. October and November is the buying and selling
season for shrimp in the States. That is when buyers will make their
commitments," said Hyde, "We're looking up to see the
Government officials at the local and federal levels have met with
American representatives several times since the embargo was imposed.
"The U.S. government has asked for a lot of paperwork from
Honduras, including copies of our fishing laws and law enforcement
plans for the protection of the turtles and implementing them. This
includes more inspectors and inspections, both dockside and at sea,"
stated Guillen. According to the U.S. State Department, it is not
clear to them what actions have been taken to address the full range
of recommendations offered by the Department of State. The State
Department further stated that the trade restriction may be lifted
once they have enough information to determine that the sea turtle
protection program in Honduras is once again achieving a level of
effectiveness. The decisions of certification are made by the Department
of State in consultation with the U.S. National Marine Fisheries
"Since July 2003, the Honduran government has been complying
with all the requirements of the U.S. They have made two patrol
trips to the fishing banks with excellent results. From October
to December, there were three scheduled patrol trips, resulting
in an almost permanent inspection at sea," explained Guillen,
"Honduras has complied with all the paperwork. (
just have to wait for the U.S. government to send their inspectors
to check the boats and teach our fishing inspectors and captains.
Then, they have to re-certify Honduras." According to the U.S.
Department of State, they will review the information that the Government
of Honduras presents regarding any steps it has taken to strengthen
and improve its program (
) and, based on those steps, will
schedule another verification visit. The U.S. State Department stated
that it is not clear at this time when a [re-certification] visit
might be scheduled.
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______________back to top
OF EDUCATION By H. E. ROSS
Bay Islands University is a non-profit corporation, meaning it is
a business that returns a profit of knowledge for an investment
of capital and energy. It is like a fishing boat in that combines
expertise with equipment to provide a product that creates an economy.
This particular business is ongoing investigation, research, study
and the resulting presentation of information that is needed by
a local, regional and international community. In the Bay Islands
the opportunity has presented itself to address the two areas most
important to the needs of this community: the fishing industry and
As a business of investigative research, attention should be organized
and focused upon the major economic problem in the fishing industry
under a general title such as marine studies. Marine studies is
intentionally broad based and can include oceanography, marine biology,
meteorology, as well as the maritime trades. In the maritime trades
category a specific series of studies can be organized to investigate
the present dilemma concerning the shrimp embargo imposed upon ten
nations by the United States.
As an example, a course can be organized to study the legality of
the embargo according to international law. Another course could
devote itself entirely to the options available in alternative markets,
financing and methods of fishing.
In tourism, studies can be made on the most successful tourism products
and destinations and that information can be analyzed for a local
Islands' wide application. This presents a sustainable program that
can unite our local tourism industry with a common tourism product
A university, unlike lower education concepts, is usually created
to address a broad range in the needs of communities. If organized
properly a university sees to the economic elevation of a community
by providing the knowledge needed to assist in that development.
The initial organization of a university has to be the most important
ingredient in creating a business in education. Certain basic ingredients
are needed to create the successful organization of a research and
educational institution, just as in any business incorporation:
a definition of the business, a need for the business, comprehensive
business plan with job descriptions, strong board of directors,
competent and imaginative administration, fulfillment of all legal
requirements for local and international recognition of credits,
flexible general marketing strategy, sources of supply and expertise,
dedicated staff of educators and researchers, long and short term
goal identification, long and short term transparent budgets
The chief executive, or president of the educational business (university)
is an administrative position just as is the heads of educational
departments, and is directly responsible to the board of directors
for maintaining the policies of the business plan approved by the
board. If the business plan meets the scrutiny of the business community
and passes then funding or investment in those goals should not
present a problem. In other words, if the present economic problems
can be objectively studied by students interested in the solution
to those problems at a minimum of cost then an investment is worth
The community in the Bay Islands has the opportunity to use the
Bay Islands University to put aside social differences while positively
being beneficially selfish in their areas of endeavor. The restaurateur
can help the wholesaler while benefiting through supporting pertinent
research for both.
A university does not run by tuition fees alone. Unlike lower education
institutions, the majority of its funding comes from the specialized
projects it promotes. To apply for educational grants from international
organizations to study the legality of the shrimp embargo can provide
the funding to hire researchers, materials and a portion of the
overall administration expenses. The more programs and projects
the more funding is produced.
The coordination of the programs and projects is organized as administrative
systems. The programs and projects are created by the educators
who are paid not just to attend class but to think up new inroads
of study about the subject matter, such as the shrimp embargo or
What is self contained about a university is the self perpetuating
development of knowledge. The educators develop concepts, the administration
controls the development of those concepts, the students investigate
the application of those concepts. The educators begin the process
over again with the information gleamed from the attentions of the
The university is a continuous source of study and information.
The responsibility for the quality and direction of the university
begins with the board of directors and hopefully ends as a source
of pride for the board of directors.
The Bay Islands University needs to have the community voice. It
needs to roll up its sleeves and get to work to enhance the Bay
Islands, the republic of Honduras and our fragile planet.
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UP TO TEGUS
Islands Business Community Wants Results
Over 100 business owners in the Island tourists industry gathered
at Roatan Municipal by request from Mayor Jerry Hynds. The October
23 meeting was held the day before Mayor Hynds was to meet with
the Minister of Tourism to discuss the second phase of PMAIB, the
$27 million Bay Islands' development project.
Mayor Hynds explained that PMAIB'S second phase proposed new water
systems for Flower's Bay, West End and Barrio Los Fuertes. "I've
met with the other Mayors [from Jose Santos Guardiola, Guanaja and
Utila] and we're united together. We suggest waiting until the first
phase is done to our satisfaction before signing anything else.
We need the second phase, but the structure has to change,"
said Mayor Hynds referring to the ongoing construction of black
water systems in Coxen Hole and French Harbour.
According to Mayor Hynds, PMAIB's second phase also includes plans
for a tourist head tax of $15 US per person. The tourist tax revenue
would fund an Executive Commission which would have the jurisdiction
and authority to approve any development project in the Bay Islands.
The President of the Executive Commission would be the Minister
of Tourism, with the head of PMAIB's as Director and the four municipal
mayors as members of the board. "We can't tax the tourists
anymore. They already pay an extra four percent in hotel tax and
a $27 departure tax. We won't be attractive to tourists anymore,"
said Anthony's Key Resort owner, Julio Galindo Sr.
The commission would dictate the municipal tariffs for sewer, water,
garbage and cruise ships. Based on a 10-year period, their revenue
would be in excess of $36 million US. "We can't pay money we
have no control over," said Romeo Silvestri, President of the
Bay Islands chapter of CANATURH, "That tax money has to go
to the municipal because we are the only ones who know what this
island needs." Mayor Hynds indicated the purpose of his meeting
was to explain his decision to postpone signing the Phase II agreement
to the local businesses in the tourist industry. "We are going
to stand behind you. Let's not depend on anyone else to do for us,"
said business owner John Nelson in support of Mayor Hynds.
Four armed men pirated a Roatan shrimping
vessel at sea on October 26. The incident occurred at 7:15pm, ten
miles north of Cauauira on the Mosquitia coast where masked men
boarded Jonesville's Miss Sharie Nell and fired several rounds inside
the boat's cabin. "We didn't hear them come up in their Panga.
They caught us by surprise," said boat Captain Jensen Elwin,
Jr., "They told us to go down below and then they locked us
down there for two hours."
According to Elwin Jr., the assailants took $3,000 worth of electronic
equipment and 57 50-pound bags of shrimp. Elwin immediately radioed
the Honduran Coast Guard to report the robbery and returned Miss
Sharie Nell and her 5-man crew home to Roatan the following night.
"Everyone knows those boats are full of shrimp. It's just going
to get worse," said boat owner Jensen Elwin, Sr. No injuries
were reported during the attack and damage to the vessel was minor.
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OF BEER by
by Thomas Tomczyk
entire brewing cycle will take about a month to complete. The first
day will be most labor intensive with critical tasks of mixing malt
with water, boiling and cooling the brew. Then, in seven to ten
days, the brew will be kept in open tubs as east is added. Finally,
the beer will sit for 20-25 days in aging tanks before being poured
into kegs and distributed.
"It's a 500-year old system. We use no chemicals or additives;
it's all natural," says Jiri Maska, 47. Some of the fine pilsner
will sit in the aging tanks for 90 days and served to beer connoisseurs.
According to the Czech entrepreneur, consuming reasonable quantities
of naturally brewed beer is healthy and can help with some types
of stomach illness.
Bay Island Pilzner, Bay Island Ale and Bay Island Lite will be distributed
throughout Roatan and be available at resorts in Utila and Guanaja.
Maska will provide the poring system to the resorts and restaurants
interested in his beer. He is not planning to bottle his beer, but
hopes to serve beer drinkers interested in higher quality product.
Dry yeast for the brew will be brought in from France, the malt
and hops (natural beer preservative) will come from the Czech Republic
and the water will be pumped from an underground reservoir 100 meters
below the brewery.
In 1997, Maska made trips to Dominican Republic, Belize, Guatemala,
Jamaica and Mexico looking for the place to set his vision. It wasn't
until 1999 that Jiri found his Caribbean island he dreamed about
from the time he was a child. "Honduran Government gave me
the best conditions," said Maska. His brewery doesn't need
to pay import taxes on technology equipment nor income taxes for
Maska has paved his own path by obtaining Honduras' first microbrewery
permit and setting up the first small brewery and pub in Honduras.
The Czech-theme restaurant will serve roasted pig and a variety
of baked breads. Roasted pig, Czech bread and a specialty-made Pilzner,
aged 90 days and poured straight from the tanks, will be served
to beer aficionados.
Maska studied graphic art in Prague and at Everett Collage in the
US. "I'm a natural businessman and I love beer," says
the businessman, "All my life I had a dream to be on a sunny
island and I am finally here."
"Wind turbines, solar panels and Russian made diesel generators"
will be used to create an elaborate system of self dependent power
and green energy sources. The three-story stone and masonry, 16
meters by 18 meter brewery and restaurant is already one of the
most imposing buildings on the Bay Islands. With a round copula
and red tile roof, it sits atop a two-acre site at the entrance
to Oak Ridge. "We in Europe build houses for 10-20 generations,"
Maska comes down to Honduras every two-three months to check on
things. To speed up the work and generate interest in his Central
American enterprise back home, Jiri sometimes brings several friends
from his Czech hometown of Strakonice.
The Czech entrepreneur estimates he spent $600,000 in materials
alone. Much of the labor was done by Jiri's daughter and friend;
Lenka Steiskalova and David Svehal have been working on the house
for the last three years. As the work progressed, they persevered
by living in a trailer next to the building site.
Maska expects to open the restaurant in December or January. He
expects to attract both tourists and locals to what could potentially
be Honduras' first microbrewery. The building will house a 100 seat
restaurant, a smaller dining area and pub. "Tourists will like
it and it will bring more people to the east of the island,"