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close this bookMarine Fisheries Case Studies (Peace Corps)
close this folder1. Past Peace Corps Activity in Marine Fisheries
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Latin America and the Caribbean


Peace Corps involvement in fisheries was never major in Belize, usually occurring as a component of other programs such as food supply or rural development. With the exception of the involvement of two volunteers in 1962/63 with a previously established lobster cooperative, no other direct Peace Corps involvement in fisheries occurred during the 1960's. A second period of activity occurred in the early 1970's with individual placements in the agricultural omnibus program as it related to fishing cooperatives. In addition, PCVs have worked in research designed to increase exports of conch and other living marine resources. This research included studies in the field biology and dynamics of reef fish. This area was recruited for by the Smithsonian Institution. Two explanations have been offered for lack of PC/Belize participation in marine fisheries. One suggests that the presence of other international organizations working in the sector precluded significant PC contributions. The second maintains that the Belize government has never placed a high priority on requesting volunteer support in fisheries. At present, there are indications PC/Belize is focusing more on freshwater fisheries development.


Though PC has been in Brazil since 1962 it did not become involved with the Supervision of Fisheries Development (SUDEPE) until 1966. This Brazilian agency was created to stimulate the development of the fishing industry and provide assistance to small fishermen. PC first became active in the sector with five volunteer pilot projects designed to assist the small fishermen through development of fishing colonies followed by cooperatives.

Activities included medical help, outboard motor maintenance repair and boat building. This pilot group was followed by a group of 32 volunteers who were to work in the states of Guanabara and Rio. At the end of 1968 there were 27 volunteers working at 14 sites. The project continued to grow with 32 active PCV's placed in the states of Rio, Espirto Santo, and Minas Gerias. Seventeen others were projected to work in Pirapona and Minas Gerias in 1970. The fisheries cooperative project was joined by the Santa Catarina fisheries project in 1972. In that project PCV's were engaged to conduct research in shrimp culture, train counterparts and participate in fishery extension activities. In addition to these activities, individual placements were recruited for research in the area of marine pollution at the Federal University of Rio Grande do Norte. From the mid 1970's Peace Corps activity appeared to go into decline as the 1976-77 country Management Plan no longer cited recruitment figures for the marine fishery sector.

Central American Fisheries Program

In response to widespread malnutrition, unemployment, and under-and irrational exploitation of living marine resources, the Central American Economic Council (CEC), composed of Panama, Honduras, E1 Salvador, Guatemala, Costa Rica, and Nicaragua, requested help from the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations. In 1966, the CEC created a Department of Fisheries (CCDP) composed of national fisheries department representatives from each country to act as the counterpart to FAO. The goal of this union was to improve methods of production, harvesting, processing and marketing, solve nutrition problems, and promote growth of commercial fishing industries. Recognition by FAO and the countries involved of Peace Corps' previous experience in Central America resulted in a formal request for Peace Corps participation. Separate requests were made by each national fishery agency for groups of PCV's to work in some aspect of the host country's fishery sector. The project began operating in 1965 and was designed to terminate in mid-1971 when the CCDP would replace FAO. PC involvement ran from 1968 through the scheduled termination date. Two cycles of PCVs arrived in their respective countries during that time period. Whereas the PC staff and the first group of PCV's had little knowledge of what to expect, the second group was more selectively placed in sites with greater potential. The initial regional effort amounted to approximately 45 volunteers in six countries in all aspects of the fishing sector. There has been a great deal of documentation of the overall project and the concept of developing fisheries on a regional basis. The program was not considered a success and degenerated to a series of six separate projects. This has been attributed in varying degrees to: poor PC programming; failure to define FAO, PC, and host country ~ roles; ineffective training; inadequate incountry staff and inadequate support by host country agencies. Peace Corps continued its involvement in marine fisheries development after FAO's withdrawal only when so requested by the host country. Individual PC projects under the Central American Fisheries Program in Panama, Honduras, E1 Salvador, Guatemala, Costa Rica, and Nicaragua are discussed under those country headings.


Chile was one of the first countries where marine fishery development was recognized as a priority and actively pursued by Peace Corps. PC/Chile involvement was initiated by two volunteers placed between 1961 and 1966 with INACAP, a technical training institute. After this period the program grew and in 1968 an agreement was reached between the Ministry of Agriculture and PC/Chile to recruit 10 marine biologists to work with the agency in basic research and expansion of the fishery industry. The marine fishery development project continued to expand and by 1973 between 75 and 100 volunteers had served in the program. Despite the large numbers and longevity of the program, it has been defined as a limited success because of a failure to reach the poor due to such factors as lack of technical expertise, lack of in-country support, weak economic conditions, lack of staff expertise, and improper or lack of preparation before PCV arrival. All PC/Chile programs were cut radically or terminated during 1972-74. By 1974, individual placement volunteers with special skills, often recruited through the Smithsonian/Peace Corps program, again were being utilized by PC/Chile. By 1978 placement came full cycle as the placement of highly skilled individuals was supplanted by a greater effort to work in fishery extension. At present PC/Chile involvement in marine fisheries is being phased out due to several reasons including: volunteer frustrations expressed in recommendations not to be replaced long and record in marine fisheries, and the recognition of other areas of documented success which more easily justifies PC/Chile participation.


The PC/Colombia program was so large and wide ranging one must assume it came in contact with marine fisheries at one time or another. Unfortunately, the only documentation encountered that supports this assumption outlines minor efforts with fishing communities in the large cooperative project in Colombia. These efforts were made in the mid-1960s to assist cooperatives along the Pacific Coast in the Departments of Choco and Valle. The only other documentation of PC/Colombia participation in the sector indicates that a few volunteers worked in salt water fish research in 1973 and another volunteer was involved in ornamental fish research on the north coast.

Costa Rica

Preceding the Central American Fisheries Program there appears to have been no involvement in marine fisheries by PC/Costa Rica. In 1969 PC/Costa Rica participated in a cooperative program with the objective of providing business expertise to a wide diversity of sectors including fishing cooperatives. In response to a request from Costa Rica six volunteers were placed as a result of the regional fisheries project. Two volunteers worked with the university while the rest worked in the field. Due to many of the problems cited common to the regional project as a whole, the program was not a success and was not continued. By the early 1970's emphasis was placed on freshwater fish culture and this continues to the present.

Dominican Republic

PC/Dominican Republic's first experience with marine fisheries was less than successful. In a program initiated in 1964, 11 trainees were recruited as fishermen to work with the local fishing communities. Of the 11, four left during training, two terminated prior to completion of service, and two transferred into freshwater fisheries projects. The various reasons offered for the project's demise were poor planning, careless selection, weak training and failure to involve the community. One favorable aspect of the project was the introduction of small outboard motors in the fishing community of Sanchez. After this initial effort in the sector, there appeared to be no other activity until the early 1970's when a small program in conjunction with IDECOOP was considered. In 1975, three PCVs were placed to organize a model pilot fishing cooperative to assist fishermen in processing, preserving and marketing their products. This program appears to be continuing to the present with five volunteers involved in coops.

Eastern Caribbean

The only documentation of placement in marine fisheries was a boat builder recruited for Antigua in 1976.


The only reported involvement of PC/Ecuador in marine fisheries was the placement of one volunteer with the national fisheries agency in 1974. At that time it was suggested Peace Corps could provide technical assistance in commercial fishing techniques. There is no evidence that this suggestion was acted on at any level of significance.

El Salvador

Though PC has been involved in E1 Salvador since 1962 it was not until seven volunteers arrived to work with the Ministry of Economy in connection with the regional fisheries project that PC/ET Salvador became involved in marine fisheries. The primary tasks of three PCVs were to work with a newly formed fish cooperative and demonstrate new fishing gear. This was considered a pilot fish coop and the cooperative/coop sharing programs. Honduras' response to the regional fisheries program was to request 10 volunteers to participate in a coop/fisheries development project situated at five sites. The requests were filled and volunteers placed and the project generally was considered a successful one. This was attributed to the placement of qualified volunteers, strong staff capabilities and a supportive host country agency. One project that continued from this initial effort was the north coast fishing project with five PCVs working in it from 1970 to 1973. The overall objectives were to improve fishing techniques and raise food production. Programs of this type continued with the Department of Renewable Resources in Honduras through the 1970's but appear to have been replaced by freshwater fishery projects in 19781979.


PC/Jamaica's only involvement in marine fisheries took place in the middle to late 1960's. The primary purpose of placement of the five to six volunteers in the cooperatives program was to introduce the use of fiberglass boats and motors designed to replace the traditional cottonwood canoes. This, it was hoped, would allow the fishermen to fish beyond the coral reefs. This project continued into 1968 with the participation of seven volunteers. There were no further evaluations to determine the fate of the project though PC/Jamaica activity ln cooperatives was documented into the early 1970s. At present PC/Jamaica activity appears to be focused on inland fish pond culture.


Marine fisheries has never been a priority in Nicaragua with PC effort directed to the artisanal fisherman of Lake Nicaragua. The six volunteers trained for the Central American Fisheries Program arrived to find the in-country fisheries division abolished. They were reassigned to INFONAC (Department of Fisheries) but found it more oriented to the lake research project. There appears to be no future for PC involvement in marine fisheries in Nicaragua.


Peace Corps was involved in fishing cooperatives in Panama as early as 1966. The level of involvement averaged three to five volunteers until the start of the Central American Fisheries Program. Ten PCVs were assigned to Panama including five generalists, a fishing technician, a biologist, a market analyst, and a food processor. The program was considered the most successful in the six countries. This success was attributed to clear objectives, adequate support, qualified volunteers, and a reasonably developed fishing industry. Two major projects consisted of working in the Chorrillo fishing cooperatives and working in general artisan fishing development at five sites in Panama. The programs were cancelled with the termination of Peace Corps/Panama in the early 1970s.


Though Peace Corps first entered Peru in 1962 it was not until 1965 that PC/Peru embarked on a program of cooperative assistance. Between 1965 and 1973 140 volunteers worked in the cooperatives project. The emphasis was on general rural and urban cooperative development and documentation of specific fishery cooperative efforts was found. Negotiations were in progress with the Ministry of Fisheries for PC/ Peru participation in marine fisheries when all PC activities were terminated by the Ministry of Foreign Relations. Direct PC/Peru activity in fisheries prior to termination appeared to be limited to a few freshwater hatchery