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PD/A CRSP Aquanews-Summer 2002

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Honduras Project: Status Report on Fisheries and Aquaculture

by Daniel Meyer and Suyapa Triminio, Escuela Agrícola Panamericana El Zamorano

ommercial aquaculture has developed in Honduras during the past 20 years. Today Honduras has two dynamic industries based on the cultivation of marine shrimp (Litopenaeus vannamei) and tilapia (Oreochromis niloticus).

Initial efforts in this country to culture fish go back to the 1960s when personnel from the United Fruit Company (UFC) imported channel catfish fingerlings from the US for culture along the north coast of Honduras. During Hurricane Fifi (September of 1974), the UFC fish farm was flooded, and approxi–mately 250,000 adult catfish were lost to local rivers. There are now channel catfish in several natural bodies of water in the northern part of Honduras. With the intent of improving sport fishing, UFC also introduced largemouth bass to the largest freshwater lake in Honduras. Bass are presently found in many water bodies locally.

During the 1970s and 80s the United States Agency for Interna–tional Development (USAID) supported several important development programs aimed at increasing agricultural production in Honduras. USAID efforts included fish culture as one alternative for increasing animal protein in the diets of the rural poor. The US Peace Corps has also promoted fish culture and the use of improved agricul–tural practices with local farmers since the early 1960s in this country. Many non-governmental organizations have included fish culture in their rural development programs.

Group of artisan fishermen in El Progreso, Honduras, with (left to right) grass carp, grass carp, tilapia, grass carp, common carp and grass carp, caught locally along the north coast of Honduras.
In addition, government agencies and private companies and organizations have introduced a variety of aquatic species to Honduras for use in aquaculture. These introductions (Table 1) have definitely impacted many the aquatic habitats in Honduras and presented new opportunities to local residents.

This list of introductions is not meant to be complete but does illustrate the frequency and variety of animal species that have been introduced with the intention of developing aquaculture locally, both at the commercial and subsistence levels. Many species were introduced on multiple dates by several different agencies. The list could easily be expanded by adding species of mollusks, ornamental fish, and aquatic plants.

It is now apparent that several of these exotic “aquaculture” species have escaped from farms and become established in the natural waters of Honduras. We have conversed with fishermen from several towns in northern Honduras who are fishing successfully for common carp, grass carp, tilapia, and Malaysian river prawns. The fishermen generate income from these species through sales locally.

We were informed that any carp fingerlings caught by these fishermen are released back into the river for further growth. It is not clear if the grass carp have been able to successfully reproduce locally without exogenous hormone-induced maturation of the fish. Successful spawning of channel catfish has occurred under local conditions in Honduras.

In Honduras, mixed-sex grass carp fingerlings were available for distribution from the El Carao National Fish Culture Station, in Comayagua, during most of the 1980s. To our knowledge, since about 1990, no grass carp have been spawned successfully on any station in this country.

This interesting situation of aquaculture species providing opportunities to local fishermen should motivate us to look into the potential economic benefits, and the possible environmental impacts, related to the presence of these exotic species in rivers and lakes in Honduras.

Table 1. Partial list of introductions of aquatic species to Honduras.
Small child with exotic fish (grass carp and common carp) ready for sale in El Progreso, Honduras.

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