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Tourism tangles a fishing lifeline

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“We don’t have that here,” she says. “It’s a problem of political vision.”

In an e-mail, Ricardo Colón Alvarez, executive director of the newly formed Dominican office of fishery management, says, “Touristic development tremendously affects fishery development.”

The fishermen put it more colloquially: “The bigger fish eats the little fish,” says Luis Paulino. “In the Dominican Republic ... money is law.”

Tourism has grown dramatically here in recent decades. In 2008, 4.4 million people visited the nation of 9.5 million, according to the Ministry of Tourism, nearly double the number a decade earlier. Valued at $8 billion, tourism and related activities make up 15.9 percent of the economy. That influx of foreign money has spurred more development geared toward capturing more tourist dollars.

But communities are pushing back, says Luis Carvajal, a biologist at UASD. In March, fishermen in Cabrera on the island’s north coast protested what they said were illegal developments blocking access to the sea. They called for an impact statement before construction proceeded.

The Ministry of Environment is also more assertive. In January, it demolished what it called illegally constructed buildings in Bayahibe.

The fishermen here have formed the Asociación de Pescadores de Juanillo, or APEJU. Their goal is twofold: fight to retain access to the ocean and learn to fish sustainably.

“We are not against touristic development,” says Mr. Paulino. “It benefits us and it benefits the country. What we want is for them to give us a little piece, so we can survive.”

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