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The Pilot Project Insures Future Success

Schematic for one of the Mila reefs which surround lobster houses

Schematic for one of the Mila reef which surround lobster houses.

Schematic for array of lobster houses under metal cage.

Aerial image of the sea floor concession for the lobster farm. Note that full array of Mila reefs and lobster houses covers less than 3% of the concession area.

Spiny Lobster Over-fished
The Pacific Spiny Green Lobster (Panulirus Gracilis) population on the West Coast of Central America is in dire straits due to over-fishing for many years without regulation. Nicaraguan lobster fisherman have resorted to unsafe diving practices, going deeper and staying underwater longer to harvest what remains of the spiny lobster population. This is not a sustainable fishery and results in a significant number of injuries and deaths each year. Moving fisherman from wild harvest to sustainable aquaculture at minimal depth will increase the harvest and decrease the danger.


Overview and Summary

After 2 years of process and structure evolutions, diver training and government negotiations, we are ready to do a pilot project to test both the physical processes as well as the business model:

  • The local partner and primary beneficiary is the Oceanic Fishing Cooperative (Oceanic), which will own most assets and government concessions generated by this project.

  • The pilot project is projected to cost $120,000. 

  • In exchange for providing 24/7 permanent protection for the artificial reefs and associated local marine life, Oceanic will operate a lobster farm whose natural production will be enhanced by the on-going seeding of their lobster reefs with lobster juveniles. This project will help their transition from complete reliance on wild-harvesting from an over-fished coastline to increasing harvests from aquaculture operations, like the proposed lobster farm.

Funding Detail

The US $120,000 of funding for the pilot project has
three parts:

1) Funding for all the assets and equipment necessary to build and install the artificial reefs for Oceanic, totaling approximately $42,200, which will pay for:

  • $16,000 for a new boat (panga) and outboard motor for water transportation, which will remain the property of Oceanic.

  • $10,000 for a used pickup truck, for land transportation. This vehicle will be used by Oceanic to facilitate installation of the reefs, but after the project is completed the vehicle will remain the property of TAMTF.

  • $5,000 for diving equipment, which will be owned by TAMTF.

  • $5,000 for Sea Container for storage and security.

  • $6,200 for tools and equipment needed to construct and install the artificial reefs.

2) Funding for the construction and installation of the underwater systems, totaling approximately US $60,000, will pay for two types of artificial reefs:   

  • The first type is a general (Mila) reef that is designed to support a wide variety of local marine life. A Mila reef is 0.64 cubic meters of cement blocks, rebar, and cement that weighs about 1,000 lbs. The estimated cost for the construction and installation of a Mila reef is US $154.  Mila reefs are also used to form a protective barrier around the Lobster reefs.

  • The second reef type is a Lobster house, which is estimated to cost US $39 each.  These reefs are long arches covered by a large cage structure, specifically designed to protect and support propagation of the local spiny green lobsters.

  • It is expected that a total of approximately 550 reefs will be installed under the pilot project.

3) Finally, there is $10,000 for estimated Nicaraguan NGO administration costs and a 7% contingency of $7,800.

  • Our local Nicaraguan beneficiary and partner, Oceanic Cooperative, will be the owner of all assets generated by this project, except the vehicle and dive equipment. Oceanic will also own the government concessions, including ownership of ocean floor where the reefs will be constructed.

  • At the time of launch, Oceanic was comprised of 14 local Nicaraguan’s — 12 men and 2 women — with a wide variety of educational and professional skill sets.

  • According to a study by the Nicaraguan Economic Ministry, this business model is feasible and sustainable on an ecological and economic basis and is projected to create an equivalent of about 20 full time jobs.

Ecological Benefits

  • The creation of a permanently protected artificial reef will benefit marine life for miles around as it acts as an incubator for many species.

  •  Failure to adequately protect the new artificial reefs and the enclosed aquaculture operation aquaculture will result in termination of lobster seeding, which will severely reduce revenue from the aquaculture operation. In addition, if the failure to protect the reef continues, TAMTF will petition the government to replace Oceanic as owner of the aquaculture.