Lobster Season Opens
It is July 1st, 4am on Caye Caulker and I am up getting dressed and packing my camera gear to meet up with a local fisherman, Eloy Badillo. With everything ready, I am out the door and making my way to the meet-up, filled with anticipation as I get to ride along with Eloy and his crew to get a first hand look of what the opening of lobster season looks like in Belize.
July 1st is the new lobster season opening date in Belize. The season used to open on June 15th every year, and before the pandemic, involved a block party and week-long festivities. This year though, the celebrations are back and highly anticipated as visitors and locals have long awaited the return of the Lobster Fest in Caye Caulker. You’ll be able to find lobster every which way, fried, bbq, stew, on a stick, in a shell, however you like it. Not many know though, what it takes to get those tasty crustaceans to you.
5:00 am, Eloy and his crew are doing the final checks on their boats for the morning’s adventure. They realize that a mainlander like myself has no sea legs so they make their best attempt at making me comfortable for the boat ride by giving advice on where best to sit and a rain jacket to protect the camera equipment. With the sun coming up, we headed out to their secret location where they have their traps.
Fishers build their own lobster traps, using zinc and special wood stakes. When traps are ready, they head out and set them into place the weeks leading up to the opening of the lobster season. This involves dropping the traps to the bottom of the sea at locations where the fisher believe the lobsters will go.
We finally arrive at the first spot and the boats are anchored. The crew quickly gets in their snorkelling gear and jump into the water, along with a floating drum to load up the lobster. I realize very quickly how demanding getting lobster is as the men dive down to the traps and hook lobsters before they escape, then bring them to the surface and place them in the drum; take another deep breath and go down again. They keep doing this until the traps are empty, after which they get back on board the boat and haul the drum filled with fresh lobster into the boat. The crew then quickly sorts the catch, making sure to return the smaller lobsters to the sea, giving them time to get bigger for next season. Then, it’s off to the next spot to do it all over again.
Later in the day, back on shore, the crew has come back in and start to pack the days catch for transport to the Co-op. Other lobsters are being prepped for immediate sale as locals start to arrive at the pier getting their order in for themselves or their restaurants. Lobster season is open and every menu on the island has it.
At lunch time, I order the lobster special and think of just how much effort and time is put in from the fishers to get this meal fresh to my plate. Early mornings, rain or shine, long days for days at a time, building traps, setting traps, diving up lobster, hauling them in. A lobor of love no doubt, and one that fishers throughout Belize are proud of.
Tropic Air wishes all fishers a bountiful harvest this 2022 season! If you plan on being in Caye Caulker, then check out the events lined up for the weekend here. Where do you plan on enjoying Lobster Fest this year?