The Yucatan Yenta
One of my favorite towns, Sisal, which I’ve written about here several times, is locked in battle with Progreso fishermen over rights to fish for sea cucumbers (pepino del mar). In this rivalry, Sisal is joined by Celestun.
Sea cucumbers are a fairly new cash crop for Gulf fishermen and the government agency that controls licenses to fish for specific animals has handed out limited licenses to fishermen’s coops in Sisal. However, fishermen from Progreso, who are also fishing in Chicxulub, have invaded the territory, according to various government agencies.
On Friday, Progreso fishermen captured two boats and six men from Sisal, accusing them of fishing in their waters, and forcibly took them to Chicxulub. Apparently the boats were fishing for lobster, not sea cucumber. Tempers are getting heated.
The rivalry is so great for this incredibly disgusting, slime covered sea animal, that at this point the Mexican navy is concerned that the fishermen are arming themselves (which probably means they are). Firearms are prohibited on the high seas. Fishermen are afraid to go out to sea, according to fisherman Carlos Choch Puc of Sisal.
Photo from the web.
Sea cucumbers are dried and packaged for export to Asia (specifically Korea) where they command high prices. A Korean family started fishing for sea cucumbers in Sisal about five years ago, and thus the craze began.
Coastal fishermen of Yucatan are dirt poor. The amount they make from fishing for these creatures is an embarassingly tiny fraction of the sales value. See Yucatan Yenta’s other articles about Sisal for details.