The Dangers of the Lobster Industry for the Miskito People

Miskito Indian pic
Miskito Indian

A veteran of the U.S. Navy, Robert Anthony Nolan of Virginia Beach, VA, earned the Sailor of the Year award for his work on the aircraft carrier USS America, CV-66 in 1988. Prior to moving to VA, Robert Nolan lived in the jungles Nicaragua among the Miskito Indians and was mostly raised a a Miskito Indian from age 11 to 19. He is still considered a Miskito Indian today by the Miskito Nation. Robert and his family were imprisoned by the Cuban and Soviet Armies on the charges of being American spies. On his 13th day of imprisonment, with the help of the Miskito Indians Robert escaped from prison and ran 9 days on foot across the entire width of the country to the neighboring country of Honduras where several emergency Red Cross camps had been set up to assist the deluge of refugees fleeing the Communists that were largely committing genocide and random executions during that time of anybody suspected of not being a Communist loyalist. Robert Nolan still supports the Miskito Indians in may ways, among others he obtains iPads, ruggedizes them, obtains flexible solar charges for each iPad and loads them with all sorts of tutorials to include basic scuba diving and basic medical practices in an effort to further educate and assist the Miskito Indians that are diving for lobsters.

With populations along the Caribbean in both Nicaragua and Honduras, the Miskito have a long history in the area. As a result of their contact with the British, most individuals in the Miskito tribe are Protestants who speak English. Many of the tribesmen work in the lobster industry, diving deep into the ocean for lobsters to send to Canada and the United States.

Although the lobster industry employees between 4,000 and 5,000 individuals, many must wait their turn to be called to embark on two-week journeys out to sea. In addition to the instability of the work, it is rife with danger, with many Miskito’s having suffered from the demands of diving into ever deeper waters without appropriate decompression chambers.

Many of the oxygen tanks used during expeditions are recycled from the 1990s. As a result of their age, they often fill with oil or sediment, causing divers to quickly rise to the surface from great depths. This rapid ascent to the surface causes “the bends,” or decompression illness. Typically making 12-16 dive a day and going as deep as 180 feet, nearly all divers show signs of this illness, and many Miskito’s have become paralyzed from diving to these depths with inadequate equipment.