BAY ISLANDS VOICE

bi-weekly print & online magazine
for Roatan, Utila & Guanaja

REPORTING LIFE OF THE ISLAND COMMUNITY Nov. 06- Nov. 19, 2003 No. 16
CALENDAR STYLE ISLAND LIVING CLASSIFIEDS AD RATES WHO WE ARE
feature story / editorial / local news / business

ISLAND IN CRISIS

AMERICAN EMBARGO THREATENS ATLANTIC SHRIMP INDUSTRY

 

written by Jaime Johnston
photos by Thomas Tomczyk

"The 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.

There 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 balance.
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 $200-300 each.
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

decision 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."
Dubar 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 bottom."
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 Service.
"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. (…) We 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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BUSINESS OF EDUCATION By H. E. ROSS

The 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 tourism.
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 direction.
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 review.
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 touristic policy.
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 students.
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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STANDING UP TO TEGUS by Jaime Johnston

Bay 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.

ROBBED AT SEA by Jaime Johnston
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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CHURCH OF BEER by Thomas Tomczyk

CHURCH

OF

BEER

 

by Thomas Tomczyk

The 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 ten years.
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," says Maska.
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," says Maska.

Read other issues of
Bay Islands VOICE___back to top

No. 1
March 27 2003
No. 2
April 10 20
03
No. 3
April 24
2003

No. 4
May 8
2003

No. 5
May 22
2003
No. 6
June 5
2003
No. 7
June 19
2003
No. 8
July 3

2003
No. 9
July 17
2003
No. 10
July 31
2003
No. 11
Aug. 14
2003
N.o. 12
Sept. 11
2003

No. 13
Sep. 25
2003

No. 14
Oct. 09
2003

No. 15
Oct. 23
2003