Life for fishermen on Venezuela’s Margarita Island used to be easy, with the sparkling waters of the Caribbean yielding rich catches of grouper, red snapper and octopus for sale to wealthy tourists. Now the island has fallen into poverty and attempts to sell on neighboring islands can lead to a run in with one of the region’s oldest industries — pirates.
Many fishermen near the El Tirano fish market in the east of the island say costs are so high and prices so low that it isn’t worth taking their boats out. Even the tourists that used to pack local hotels are staying away, forcing some restaurants to close.
“Fishing isn’t profitable anymore in Venezuela,” Jose Diaz, a 40-year-old fisherman, said in an interview. “We have to leave for work at 3 a.m., we risk robbers and we have to sell at low prices, because in Venezuela no one can pay what things really cost.”
The economic slump is reaching every corner of the once oil-rich nation, including the so-called Pearl of the Caribbean that boasts palm-lined beaches backed by tropical jungles. Even as people on the island go hungry and thousands form long lines outside supermarkets and bakeries for the most basic items, fishermen can’t sell their produce.