Miskito Divers Risk Injury and Death

The Miskito Indians from Honduras’ La Moskitia region have little or no training and minimal equipment to help them pluck seafood from the ocean floor. They lack depth and pressure gauges or timers, and have little access to medical care when they encounter problems associated with their dangerous diving.

Between 1,500 and 2,000 Miskito Indians dive for lobsters eight months out of the year, catching them by hand. The other four months of the year, smaller numbers of divers harvest conchs using the same aggressive diving techniques. The divers descend 8 to 12 times a day on scuba gear to more than 100 feet, working until their air tanks are nearly empty before they ascend rapidly to the surface, where they change tanks and repeat the process.

These divers are paid by the pound for their catch, which encourages them to dive while ignoring minor symptoms–and to raise concerns only when they feel significant pain, are too weak to keep on diving, or can no longer walk.

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