Girish Gupta

HOME

PHOTOS

ONLINE

Twitter
Instagram
IFTTT
Facebook
LinkedIn
Keybase
GitHub

BY COUNTRY

Brazil
Colombia
Cuba
Ecuador
Egypt
Guyana
Iraq
Jordan
Lebanon
Mexico
United Kingdom
Venezuela

BY MEDIUM

Text
Photo
Radio
TV/Video

BY PUBLISHER

Al Jazeera
BBC
BuzzFeed
CBC
Christian Science Monitor
CNN
Daily Mail
Datum
Ecologist
Economist Intelligence Unit
Emerging Markets
Financial Times
Foreign Policy
France 24
Fusion
GlobalPost
Guardian
Independent
La Prensa (Panama)
LatinFinance
Mancunion
Monocle
National (Abu Dhabi)
New Internationalist
New Statesman
New York Times
New Yorker
NPR
PBS
PRI
Radio France Internationale
Reuters
RTE
Sky News
Sun
Sunday Times
Telegraph
TIME
Times of London
USA Today
Vice
WLRN

ABOUT

About
CV
Contact (PGP Key)
Blue crabs threatened by oil spills in Venezuela
Aug. 5, 2011 — Maracaibo, Venezuela

Published by Reuters and Scientific American

Girish Gupta and Isaac Urrutia

Venezuelan fishermen inspect their catch of blue crabs on the edge of Lake Maracaibo, concerned about the greasy oil stains covering their shells.

The crustaceans will be processed and shipped to seafood restaurants in Maryland and New York where they are considered a delicacy. But scientists and fishermen in the state of Zulia in northwestern Venezuela worry that the crabs may not be safe for consumption.

"The crabs are stained with oil," said fisherman Cesar Burgos as he weighed the day's catch in the fishing village of Barranquitas. "I don't know at what point it becomes harmful."

Pollution in Lake Maracaibo has been a problem for decades. In recent weeks the area has been blighted by several leaks from tangled pipes, corroding pumps and other oil installations that crisscross the lake.

"The main source of contamination by hydrocarbons is the oil industry," said Lenin Herrera, a chemical engineer and former president of the Institute for the Control and Conservation of Lake Maracaibo (ICLAM).

"If there is a discharge of oil, that does damage to important ecosystems in the lake."

The blue crabs -- whose Latin name Callinectes sapidus means beautiful, savory swimmers -- are distinctive for their violet-blue legs and claws. They are famed for their succulent, sweet taste.

Though not popular in Venezuela, 95 percent of the creatures will be shipped to the United States, where the best of the white jumbo lump meat sells for up to $40 per pound. Fishermen surrounding Lake Maracaibo will earn around $0.23 for each crab they catch.

The fishermen often sell the crabs to local middlemen who then send the product to one of the 19 processing plants in the area, often at double the price.

The plants hire hundreds of staff to separate the meat before it makes its way to the dining tables of U.S. restaurants.

In addition to the environmental problems, fishing techniques are also thought to be harming the crab population. In 2002, fishermen began using longline methods rather than traditional small mesh cages to catch the crustaceans.

The new method, which does not discriminate by size, has doubled production but is threatening the future of the crab population.

"There has been a very strong increase of individuals caught that are under the minimum legal size," said Dr. Glenys Andrade de Pasquier, an investigator at the National Institute for Agricultural Investigation (INIA).

When immature crabs are caught it stunts population growth.

Feelings against President Hugo Chavez run high in Zulia, an island of opposition in the socialist nation. Locals blame his government for turning a blind eye to pollution by the oil industry.

"The government could do so much but it does nothing," said Eliseo Fermin, deputy of the legislative council of Zulia state. "What the government has done with the lake is a terrible crime."

There is little recent research into the wellbeing of Lake Maracaibo, which critics suggest is due to a lack of funding by the government which is eager to downplay the pollution as Chavez looks to win his fourth term in power in next year's presidential election.

(Editing by Patricia Reaney)

Filed from
Maracaibo, Venezuela






More...

Exclusive: At least 123 Venezuelan soldiers detained since protests - documents
Jul. 6, 2017


Venezuela hikes minimum wage 50 percent, effectively down 17 percent
Jul. 2, 2017


Venezuela movie actor behind helicopter attack on government buildings
Jun. 28, 2017


Fourteen Venezuelan army officers jailed in first week of protests - documents
Jun. 6, 2017


Exclusive: U.S. considers possible sanctions against Venezuela oil sector - officials
Jun. 4, 2017


Exclusive: Trump administration concerned about U.S. firms giving financial 'lifeline' to Venezuela
Jun. 4, 2017


United Airlines ends flights to Venezuela, further isolating country
Jun. 3, 2017


Venezuela sets new exchange mechanism, as currency continues to slide
May. 24, 2017


Exclusive: Venezuela holds 5,000 Russian surface-to-air MANPADS missiles
May. 22, 2017


Venezuelan opposition activists march to Leopoldo Lopez' jail
Apr. 28, 2017


Venezuela says inflation 274 percent last year, economists say far higher
Apr. 20, 2017


Venezuelan protests against government leave three dead
Apr. 19, 2017


Venezuelans return to streets, roused by ban on opposition leader
Apr. 8, 2017


Venezuelan opposition, security forces clash in anti-Maduro protests
Apr. 6, 2017


Venezuela security forces battle anti-Maduro protesters
Apr. 4, 2017








© Girish Gupta