Genaro Moreno Bonilla has been fishing off the coast of Coqui, Colombia, for 53 years.
“I remember that I would paddle out in my canoe and propose to myself to catch 50 or 100 fish that day, and it happened,” he says. Life was good. Colombia had a reputation for having one of the greatest variety of fish on the planet.
But things have changed. The plentiful supply of fish Bonilla depended on has dwindled dramatically in a changing world. And efforts to make his life better in the long run are actually exacerbating the problems he faces today.
Bonilla is an artisanal fisherman. Artisanal practices use traditional fishing methods like hook and line — think fisherman on a boat with a fishing rod. They’re small-scale, low technology and low capital household-run fisheries.
Three major forces are arrayed against Bonilla and other artisanal fishermen.
First, industrial fishing fleets. These highly efficient seafood harvesters have decimated local fishing grounds.
“The people who manage [industrial] fisheries receive the benefits of all this extraction,” says Dr. Octavio Aburto, assistant professor at Scripps Institution of Oceanography, who often works alongside artisanal fishing communities. “But there has never been a vision about how to manage the seas in the best ways, to produce wealth for all the people involved.”