"The trawler wreck all": political ecology and a Belizean village

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Virginia Tech


Forces of development are constantly affecting rural communities in the expanding world economic system. My research with the Garifuna fishermen of Hopkins, Belize, demonstrates the systematic articulations among national export-oriented economic development strategies, rural impoverishment, and environmental degradation. Within a political ecology framework, I document the impact of a shrimp trawling program on the subsistence fishermen of Hopkins, Belize, its impact on the effective marine environment of the subsistence fishermen, and their responses to it.

The data gathered for this micro-level study are based on a total of six weeks of on-site, participant observer research in Hopkins on two separate trips. Taped interviews with approximately three-quarters of the active fishermen of Hopkins, along with interviews with other Hopkins residents and government fisheries officials, fishery production and export records from three sources, (the World Bank, the Belize Department of Statistics and the Belize Department of Fisheries) and my own observations provide the documentation of the trawlers impact on the marine environment and the subsistence fishermen of Hopkins.

Much of the work of other geographers on Third World development issues shows that rural communities have suffered from political, economic, environmental, and cultural factors that threaten their way of life. My work reveals the current situation in Hopkins, Belize, as part of this process.



political ecology, geography, Belize, Garifuna, subsistence fishing