The Honduras Lobster Fishing Scourge: Article Review
For many years, deep-sea lobster fishing has been the economic lifeline for over 2100 Miskito Indian divers in Honduras. In spite of the activity’s lurking dangers, more and more divers keep flocking the sea to try their luck in making a living. In 2011, the hazardousness of this undertaking prompted Dr. Elmer Mejia to equate the lobsters to the diamonds of blood that are responsible for numerous protracted civil wars in Africa (Malkin September 9, 2011). Some of them like Rolando Pita Gomez have been engaged in diving for over 25 years, long enough to know all its dangers, but they still cannot relent from engaging in it.
Additionally, the ever increasing demand for lobster food by industrialized countries such as the U.S. is amplifying the dangers the divers have to undergo. In particular, it has led to overfishing making the supply of lobsters scanty and hard to come across. Unlike before the 1980s when most lobsters could be hand-caught at a meager depth of less than 100 feet, over time the divers have had to sink deeper than 120 feet to get a handsome catch (Malkin September 9, 2011). Sadly, the deep sea pursuit has heightened the number of fatalities related to complications caused by high atmospheric pressures experienced at deep depths. Some of the most complications developed by the divers are decompression sickness, brain implosion, and paralysis. A few among those who develop these complications die each year.
The decision by Dr. Mejia to intervene by building a clinic where he treats the deep-sea patients is quite noble and it needs to be replicated by other well-wishers. Even though medical intervention is a good gesture, it is not sufficient to solve the plight facing the entire Miskito Indian community. More needs to be done to ensure that the fishing of lobsters is made safe, or it is stopped entirely. For instance, the problem which pushes the divers to engage in the diving business should be identified to help establish a long lasting remedy. Other ethical and global issues which surround the trade should also be identified and be resolved precisely. In this review, the author will try to delve into five key topics which are central to this lobster business in Honduras.
Problem facing the Honduras
The main problem facing the Honduras people is the chronic poverty facing them. Honduras is already one of the poorest countries in the world. Consequently, it lacks sufficient resources to provide for its entire citizenry. Usually, access to basic facilities such as formal education and healthcare is very limited in poor countries. Seemingly, Honduras suffers a similar predicament where it has inadequate supply of basic healthcare facilities. That is the reason why Dr. Mejia opened his clinic in La Ceiba to try to lessen the inadequacy of formal healthcare centers. However, even after the establishment of Mejia’s clinic, the problem of poverty still seems to stifle healthcare provision. Most injured divers usually do not have enough money to pay for services in the clinic; hence, they have to depend on payments made by fishing boat owners. Other boat owners are reluctant carry sick divers back to the shore to avoid making losses.
Lack of formal education has also amplified the problem of lobster fishing. The villages inhabited by the communities involved in deep-sea fishing are very inaccessible. Most of them are only reachable via air or water transport. As a result, there are very few formal schools in the surrounding areas where young children can obtain formal education. Due to lack of schooling, young children have ample time to do other less important activities such as fishing. Moreover, as generations grow, they have no formal education to help them diversify their talents or skills. Eventually, once the children get elderly they realize that there is nothing important to do that can sustain them. Therefore, they perceive lobster catching as the only activity they can perform efficiently using their minimal skills.
Lack of integrity is the leading ethical issue ailing the fishing of Lobsters in Honduras. The Honduras government and the lobster buyers are two sides that are largely responsible for this incidence. Foremost, the government of Honduras is unmindful about the unending suffering of the fishing communities in the country. Even though the government is aware of the dangers facing divers, it has never enacted laws to regulate the sector. In addition, it has not employed enough resources to put up adequate social amenities that can raise the living standards of the people and disrupt them from engaging in fishing.
Boat owners have also contributed to lack of integrity by failing to adhere to fair trade practices. Fair trade principles demand that all employees be compensated fairly for their services. They also demand that rich merchants should not coerce poor laborers to undertake dangerous activities, especially where there are optional safer methods of dong similar tasks. Just like any form of a business transaction where there are buyers and sellers, there are two sides to the fishing business in the country: the rich boat owners, and the Honduras divers. Lack of integrity on the side of the boat owners has seen them promote exploitative trade practices that allow them to pay very little wages to the divers who agree to search for lobsters at the expense of their own health.
Lack of good morals by the fishing community is the second ethical issue that is evident in this case. Some of their practices show that they have no morals and they are willing to do anything to engage in deep-sea diving. For instance, some of the divers used marijuana just before diving to reduce their level pain or fear (Malkin September 9, 2011). Others revealed their lack of values after being involved in fatal accidents but still they were willing to return to diving under the same old conditions. Instead, they should be more concerned about their health rather than the acquisition of small payments.
The case of fishing in Honduras has two core global aspects that relate to unfair international trade practices. The two aspects are inequality and marginalization. Generally, inequality in the market seems to favor the developed markets such as the U.S while it disadvantages poor countries like the Honduras. Even though the lobsters are the main commodity in the market, their trade seems to do harm to the origin market while it benefits the destination market. Particularly, the exploitative behavior of the exporting merchants has helped to increase the level of inequity between the Honduras and the recipient countries. On the other hand, marginalization of the poor communities by global actors has contributed to their poor living standards. The advent of globalization has helped to alleviate many marginalized societies; however, in the case of Honduras the opposite is true. Apart from the entry of Dr. Mejia’s clinic, there is no any other clear benefit of globalization.
Besides ethical and global issues, the other issue that is problematic in this case is lack of social responsibility. It is apparent that fishing the community is contented with its status as a poor dependent society. For example, there seems to be no urgency by the divers to seek an alternative economic activity that does not endanger their lives. In addition, even after many years of its members perishing as a result of diving, the community has not enacted its own safeguards to curb the activity. An economic activity like tourism is more profitable and it can be undertaken in many parts of the country more safely.
Red Lobster business strategy
As a responsible business entity that believes in communal development and social responsiveness, the first thing that Red Lobster should do is to empower the local community. Over the years, corporate social responsibility has gained prominence because business leaders believe that it is a means of balancing the profits that their organizations make (Lawrence and Webber 53). Similarly, Red Lobster should realize that it needs to utilize some of its profits on corporate activities. A huge proportion of its profits mainly come from the Miskito community that produces divers who catch its lobsters. As a result, it should identity areas where the local community needs help and allocate adequate funds to help it. For instance, the people in Honduras are generally deprived of schools and hospitals. Thus, the company should initiate a project to construct a few schools and hospitals for the Miskito people. Even though this strategy will cost the company a lot of funds, it will eventually draw positive reciprocation from the community.
Secondly, the company should mechanize the fishing process to ensure that the divers have the necessary equipments that guarantee their safety. Unlike the first approach whose benefits are unclear, the second approach has direct returns since better equipments will reduce diving related sicknesses and also lead to efficient catching of the lobsters. However, the business should implement both strategies because the first one will improve its image, while the second one will make fishing of lobsters efficient and less deadly.
Lawrence, A. T., & Weber, J. (2008). Business and society: Stakeholders, ethics, public policy. Tata McGraw-Hill Education.
Malkin, Elisabeth. “Devoted to keeping lobster divers of Honduras alive.” The New York Times. 9 September 2011. Retrieved from: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/09/10/world/americas/10honduras.html?_r=3
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