The Women Behind the Scenes

Our three community scientists in Honduras brought improved fishing practices to the Mesoamerican Reef by building important relationships with fishers.

Paola Urrutia, Greissi Lizeth Villatoro, and Ana Bessy Valdez spend their days building relationships with fishers.

As our community scientists in Honduras, they travel every morning to popular fisher landing points and meet with the fishers to analyze their catch. They take measurements, ask for anecdotal data, and document all of their findings.

The data they collect give us and our partners more insight into local fisheries. They also help local fishers understand what’s happening to their underwater resources.

Urrutia, Villatoro, and Valdez are respected members of the communities where they work. They participate in community meetings and report back on their findings.

Through their relationships, they’ve created a network of fishers that help support science and understand the importance of rules and regulations. When Urrutia started, 100% of local fishers fished during the closed season. But now, only 10-20% fish illegally. Likewise, Villatoro has noticed that the local crabbing company has stopped buying small, juvenile crabs and fishers have stopped using illegal nets that are more likely to catch younger crabs.

All three of our community scientists are women from minority groups who are socially and economically vulnerable. The position of community scientist at CORAL not only provides them with a stable income, but our program coordinators also support them in working toward personal goals and pursuing their education.

Urrutia for example, was a community scientist in 2016 before leaving to go back to school. Now that she has graduated, she has returned to CORAL and has taken on more duties. She’s now also supervising the maintenance and data collection from CORAL’s experimental aquaculture project in Tela—a project designed to create an economic alternative for fishers.

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