The illegal harvesting of finfish and shellfish by Honduran fishermen in Jamaican waters goes back decades. They having overfished their own seas, depleting their own stock of economically valuable marine resources. Although Jamaican waters are the most overfished in the region in terms of finfish, Jamaica has the largest remaining stock of conch in the world, and still quite a bit of lobster left on our offshore banks. Our local consumption of conch and lobster (which we can collectively refer to as shellfish) is quite small and, as a result, we still have commercial quantities of these marine resources in our waters. It is our shellfish stock that is attracting the Hondurans.
This is not a small man's game, conducted by 'sufferers' trying to earn 'a bread'; it is big business involving substantial capital investment by quite wealthy people. The divers are Miskito Indians, expendable small fry to the owners, but the boat captain and engineer are in a different class.
Let me tell you how the system works. The fishing enterprise is conducted by a fairly large fishing vessel (called a 'mother ship') on to which is tied about 40 small canoes. The mother ship sails into Jamaican waters into an area they have not previously cleaned out, and then the 40 canoes are launched, each with three or four men. Either they use scuba gear (the divers swim freely underwater, breathing from tanks of compressed air on their back) or they use hooka rigs (the divers breathe air from hoses connected to a low-pressure compressor in the boat above).
Using spearguns or Hawaiian slings to catch lobsters, or their bare hands to harvest conch, these divers can quickly depopulate a large area of all its economically valuable living marine resources. They then go back to the mother ship, and move to a new, relatively untouched area. More....