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Fishing for sharks in Honduras’s sanctuary seas: Q&A with biologist Gabriela Ochoa

08 / 04 / 2019, Mongabaycom News

In 2011, the government of Honduras declared the country’s waters a shark sanctuary. The move obliged indigenous peoples who have been catching sharks for generations and for whom the fish represent an important source of income to stop their shark fishing. Five years later, in 2016, a decree allowed for a modification to the law stipulating that sharks caught incidentally could legally be sold. Marine biologist Gabriela Ochoa, a specialist in conservation and biodiversity and the coordinator in Honduras for the Belize-based marine conservation organization MarAlliance, is carrying out research to understand the impacts of shark fishing in Honduras’s La Mosquitia region. This remote part of the country’s Atlantic coastline is where the majority of the indigenous population lives, principally the Garifuna and Miskitos. Here, Ochoa says, shark fishing is far from incidental. In the months leading up to the Easter holidays, when a soup of dried fish is traditional fare, up to 100 sharks are caught daily per boat, even though these waters are, in theory, a sanctuary for the animals. Mongabay: Did shark fishing continue after the declaration of the sanctuary? Gabriela Ochoa: The decree that declared Honduran waters a sanctuary was passed in 2011 and involved no prior consultation. The fishermen were not asked about anything. No socio-economic study was carried out to see how many people depended on this kind of fishing. The entire marine area belonging to Honduras was simply declared a shark sanctuary. According to the fishermen, some of them went out to fish at this time…

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