The Embrace of Liwa Mairin: Lobster Diving and Sustainable Livelihoods on the Nicaraguan Miskito Coast

  • Miguel GonzálezEmail author
Part of the MARE Publication Series book series (MARE, volume 19)


This chapter seeks to explore the governance challenges associated with lobster diving on the Caribbean Coast of Nicaragua. Driven by external market pressure, commercial lobster diving has become a dangerous activity for Miskito men due to the inadequate equipment used by indigenous divers, the precarious working conditions under which they operate, and the environmental effects that this fishery has on the resource base. Against the backdrop of relatively recent and progressive domestic legislation promising to prohibit lobster fishing through diving, current policy debates are delaying meaningful actions to protect Miskito divers and the livelihoods of coastal communities that depend on multiple target fisheries. The chapter contends that the governance and viability of the lobster fishery would be better served through a combined strategy of law enforcement mechanisms, human rights protections, responsible labor-capital practices, and the careful consideration of alternative livelihoods for fishing communities.


Miskito Nicaragua Commercial lobster fishing Governance Livelihoods 


  1. Acosta ML (2013) Diagnóstico sobre la Situación del Buceo en la Costa Atlántica. (Unpublished manuscript). Managua, NicaraguaGoogle Scholar
  2. Acosta ML, Moreno E, Weil D (2002) Condiciones laborales de los buzos miskitos en la costa atlántica de Nicaragua. Oficina Internacional del Trabajo, San JoséGoogle Scholar
  3. Adpesca (2003) Anuario Pesquero y Acuicola de Nicaragua 2002. Administracion Nacional de Pesca y Acuicultura del Ministerio de Fomento, Industria y Comercio, ManaguaGoogle Scholar
  4. Allison EH, Elllis F (2001) The livelihoods approach and management of small-scale fisheries. Mar Policy 25:377–388CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Asamblea Nacional de Nicaragua (2007) Ley 613. Ley de Protección y Seguridad para las Personas Dedicadas a la Actividad del Buceo. La Gaceta, Diario Oficial, No. 12. ManaguaGoogle Scholar
  6. Banco Central de Nicaragua (2012) Informe anual 2012. Managua: Banco Central. Accessed 25 Feb 2017
  7. Banco Central de Nicaragua (2015) Informe Anual 2015. Managua: Banco Central. Accessed 22 Feb 2017
  8. Baratt DM, Van Meter K (2004) Decompression sickness in Miskito Indian divers: review of 229 cases. Aviat Space Environ Med 75(4):350–353Google Scholar
  9. Bavinck M (2011) The mega-engineering of ocean fisheries: a century of expansion and rapidly closing frontiers. In: Brunn SD (ed) Engineering earth: the impacts of mega-engineering projects. Kluwer, Dordrecht, pp 257–273CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Béné C (2003) When fishery rhymes with poverty: a first step beyond the old paradigm on poverty in small-scale fisheries. World Dev 31(6):949–975CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Béné C, Friend RM (2011) Poverty in small-scale fisheries: old issue, new analysis. Prog Dev Stud 11(2):119–144CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Béné C, Merten S (2008) Women and fish-for-sex: transactional sex, HIV/AIDS and gender in African fisheries. World Dev 36(5):875–899CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Béné C, Lawton R, Allison EH (2010) Trade matters in the fight against poverty: narratives, perceptions, and (lack of) evidence in the case of fish trade in Africa. World Dev 38(7):933–954CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Berkes F, Mahon R, McConney P, Pollnac R, Pomeroy R (2001) Managing small-scale fisheries: alternative directions and methods. International Development Research Centre, OttawaGoogle Scholar
  15. Berkes F, Hughes TP, Steneck RS, Wilson JA, Bellwood DR, Crona B, Folke C, Gunderson LH, Leslie HM, Norberg J, Nyström M, Olsson P, Österbloom H, Scheffer M, Worm B (2006) Ecology – globalization, roving bandits, and marine resources. Science 311(5767):1557–1558CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Bundy A, Chuenpagdee R, Jentoft S, Mahon R (2008) If science is not the answer, what is? An alternative governance model for the world’s fisheries. Front Ecol Environ 6(3):152–155CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Butcher JG (2004) The closing of the frontier – a history of the marine fisheries of Southeast Asia c. 1850–2000. KITLV Press, LeidenGoogle Scholar
  18. Central American Commission for the Environment and Development (CAED) (2005) Trans-border Biosphere Reserve Project: social and indigenous evaluation. CAED, ManaguaGoogle Scholar
  19. Christie P, Simmons B, White N (2000) CAMPLab: the coastal area monitoring project and laboratory. In: Christie P, Bradford D, Garth R, González B, Hostetler M, Morales O, Rigby R, Simmons B, Tinkam E, Vega G, Vernooy R, White N (eds) Taking care of what we have: participatory natural resource management on the Caribbean Coast of Nicaragua. CIDCAIDRC, Ottawa, pp 99–126Google Scholar
  20. Chuenpagdee R (2011a) World small-scale fisheries: contemporary visions. Eburon, DelftGoogle Scholar
  21. Chuenpagdee R (2011b) Thinking big on small-scale fisheries. In: Christensen V, Maclean J (eds) Ecosystem approaches to fisheries: a global perspective. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, pp 226–240CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Daw TM (2008) Spatial distribution of effort by artisanal fishers: exploring economic factors affecting the lobster fisheries of the Corn Islands, Nicaragua. Fish Res 90:17–25CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Dennis PA (2004) The Miskitu people of Awastara. University of Texas, AustinGoogle Scholar
  24. Eide AH, Bavinck M, Raakjaer J (2011) Avoiding poverty – distributing wealth in fisheries. In: Jentoft S, Eide AH (eds) Poverty mosaics: realities and prospects in small-scale fisheries. Springer, Dordrecht/London, pp 13–25CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. El Nuevo Diario (2013) “Buzos están en las manos de Dios”. Accessed 1 Oct 2016
  26. FAO (Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations) (2005) Increasing the contribution of small-scale fisheries to poverty alleviation and food security, FAO technical guidelines for responsible fisheries. no. 10. FAO, RomeGoogle Scholar
  27. FAO (2010) The state of world fisheries and aquaculture 2010. FAO, RomeGoogle Scholar
  28. FAO (2011) Report of the FAO workshop on governance on tenure for responsible capture fisheries. FAO, RomeGoogle Scholar
  29. Ferreira LL, Donatelli S, Reis A Jr (2002) Análise Coletiva do Trabalho de pescadores-mergulhadores de lagosta brasileira, Ministério do Trabalho e Emprego. Delegacia Regional do Trabalho, NatalGoogle Scholar
  30. González M (2011) To make a life in Marshall point: community empowerment and small-scale fishery. In: Jentoft S, Eide A (eds) Poverty mosaics. A better future in small-scale fisheries. Springer, New York, pp 275–308Google Scholar
  31. González C, Jentoft S (2010) MPA in labor: securing the pearl cays of Nicaragua. Environ Manag 47(4):617–629CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Hostetler M (2005) Enhancing local livelihood options: capacity development and participatory project monitoring in Caribbean Nicaragua (doctoral dissertation). York University, TorontoGoogle Scholar
  33. ILO (International Labor Organization) (1989) Indigenous and Tribal Peoples Convention, 1989 (No. 169), Geneve: ILO. Accessed 4 Jan 2017
  34. INPESCA (Instituto Nicaragüense de la Pesca) (2012) Anuario Pesquero y Acuicola 2011. INPESCA, ManaguaGoogle Scholar
  35. INPESCA (2013a) Medidas de ordenacion para la extraccion de recursos pesqueros mediante el metodo del buceo. Resolucion Ejecutiva-PA-No004–2013 Managua, June 13 2013. Accessed 31 July 2016
  36. INPESCA (2013b) Declaracion de las pesquerias de langosta espinosa (Panuliris Argus) y camaron costero de la familia de Peneidos del Caribe como recursos sub-explotados bajo el regimen de libre accesso. Resolucion Ejecutiva-PA-No005–2013 Managua, June 21 2013. Accessed 31 July 2016
  37. INPESCA (2016) Anuario Pesquero y Acuicola 2015. INPESCA, ManaguaGoogle Scholar
  38. Jamieson M (2007) Contrato con los dawanka y procesos productivos entre los miskitos de las comunidades costeras de la RAAS. Wani 56:15–25Google Scholar
  39. Jentoft S, Chuenpagdee R (2009) Fisheries and coastal governance as a wicked problem. Mar Policy 33:553–560CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Jentoft S, Eide A (2011) Poverty mosaics: realities and prospects in small-scale fisheries. Springer, New YorkCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Kooiman J, Bavinck B, Jentoft S, Pullin R (2005) Fish for life: interactive governance for fisheries. Amsterdam University Press, AmsterdamCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Lagueux CJ (1998) Marine turtle fishery of Caribbean Nicaragua: human use patterns and harvest trends (doctoral dissertation). University of Florida, GainesvilleGoogle Scholar
  43. Lagueux CJ, Campbell CL (2005) Marine turtle nesting and conservation needs on the south-east coast of Nicaragua. Oryx 39(4):398–405CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Larson AM, Soto MF, Mairena D, Moreno E, Mairena E, Mendoza-Lewis J (2016) The challenge of ‘territory’: weaving the social fabric of indigenous communities in Nicaragua’s northern Caribbean Autonomous Region. Bull Lat Am Res 35(3):322–337CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Metzoff S, Schull J (1999) Miskito ethnic struggle over land and lobster: conserving culture and resources on Corn Island. Cult Agric 21(3):10–18CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Monnereau I, Helmsing AHJ (2011) Local embedding and economic crisis: comparing lobster chains in Belize, Jamaica and Nicaragua. In: Helmsing AHJ, Vellema S (eds) Value chains, inclusion and endogenous development: contrasting theories and realities. Routledge, Abington, pp 178–197Google Scholar
  47. Nietschmann B (1972) Hunting and fishing focus among Miskito Indians, eastern Nicaragua. Hum Ecol 1:41–67CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Nietschmann B (1973) Between land and water: the subsistence ecology of the Miskito Indians, eastern Nicaragua. Seminar Press, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  49. Onyango PO (2011) Occupation of last resort? Small-scale fishing in Lake Victoria, Tanzania. In: Jentoft S, Eide AH (eds) Poverty mosaics: realities and prospects in small-scale fisheries. Springer, Dordrecht/London, pp 97–124CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Pauly D (2006) Major trends in small-scale marine fisheries, with emphasis on developing countries, and some implications for the social sciences. Mar Stud 4(2):7–22Google Scholar
  51. PNUD (Programa de las Naciones Unidas para el Desarrollo) (2005) Informe de Desarrollo Humano 2005. Las egiones Autónomas de la Costa Caribe. ¿Nicaragua asume su diversidad? PNUD, ManaguaGoogle Scholar
  52. Roe HK (2006) Indigenous ecological knowledge and marine resource management: perceptions within a Rama community. In: Gonzalez M, Koskinen A, Jentoft S, Lopez D (eds) The Rama: struggling for land and culture. URACCAN & University of Tromso-Norway, Nicaragua, pp 107–123Google Scholar
  53. Salas S, Chuenpagdee R, Charles AT, Seijo JC (2011) Coastal fisheries of Latin America and the Caribbean. In: FAO fisheries and aquaculture technical paper 544. FAO, RomeGoogle Scholar
  54. Symes SD, Phillipson J (2001) Inshore fisheries management. Kluwer Academic Publishers, Dordrecht/BostonCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Teh LCL, Teh LSL, Meitner MJ (2012) Preferred resource spaces and fisher flexibility: implications for spatial management of small-scale fisheries. Hum Ecol 40:213–226CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. UNDP (United Nations Development Program) (2011) Experiences of titling of indigenous territories. main breakthroughs. UNDP-Caribbean coast program’ preparatory meeting of the conclave of Latin America and the Caribbean. Managua, April 4–6, 2011Google Scholar
  57. Williamson D, Fonseca G (2007) Compendio estadístico de las regiones autónomas de la Costa Caribe de Nicaragua. CIDCA-UCA, ManaguaGoogle Scholar
  58. World Bank (1999) The lobster fishery of the Honduran and Nicaraguan Moskitia, draft final report. Accessed 1 Oct 2016
  59. WorldFish Centre/FAO (2005) Towards an interdisciplinary approach to the assessment of small-scale fisheries and its role in food security and poverty alleviation and sustainable resource use: concept note. WorldFish Centre and the FAO FishCode-STF Project, Penang and Rome. Accessed 26 Feb 2017
  60. Worm B, Barbier E, Beaumont N, Duffy JE, Folke C, Halpern BS, Jackson JBC, Lotze HK, Micheli F, Palumbi SR, Sala E, Selkoe KA, Stachowicz JJ, Watson R (2006) Impacts of biodiversity loss on ocean ecosystem services. Science 314(5800):787–790CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.York UniversityTorontoCanada

Personalised recommendations