The poor fishing seasons for different species and the unfortunate closures of ports that the coastal sector has led to more than 50 percent of the fishing population in the Chelem and Chuburná municipalities to provide tourism services during the holiday season instead of catching grouper, which is an unusual phenomenon. Until a decade ago, fishing for this species was a guarantee of economic income for the local coastal communities.
In just four days (Thursday to Sunday), Chuburná had a flow of over half a million pesos, as about 2,500 people were estimated to have visited the pier where boats depart for trips to the three most popular destinations: the “saltworks” spring, the “swing island,” or kayaking tours.
“We’ve done quite well. It helped that the “Pig Beach” didn’t open for a couple of days during Holy Week, which caused a huge influx of people to the town, and services skyrocketed. We had up to five trips per fisherman where we usually charge 200 pesos per person,” said Jorge Cab of the “PescaYuc” group.
Another cooperative that bet on tourism over catching fish this season was “Eco Turismo Chuburná,” where its leader Adrian Sosa confirmed that wages are usually higher, and the activity is less risky for seafarers, as there have already been about ten deaths counted municipally in just four months of this year.
“There is a lot of freedom and security with people. We offer trips that usually cost 1,200 pesos and last up to three hours. If they ask us to go to the ‘saltworks,’ we charge them 2,000 pesos because it’s a little further away,” he said.
Despite Chuburná having the highest number of national and international clients, they have had problems with coastal boatmen who usually offer the same services, but without the mandatory safety measures and at a lower price. He said that fortunately, no kind of incident has occurred so far.
The radical change from fishing to tourism, according to Chelem port fisherman Concepcion Canto Pool “Concho,” is due to the lower investment, as providing tourism services only requires seven liters of fuel, while building boats requires up to 40 liters, which costs about 23 pesos.
“Unlike Chuburná, here in Chelem, what people ask for the most are recreational fishing trips. The water is not very deep, so we take them several meters out to sea so they can catch ‘chivitas’ (a type of fish). It hasn’t been what we expected, but we’ll try to think positively. During the busiest days, we had two to three trips per fisherman among the twelve members of ‘Eco Turismo Ria de Chelem,'” said the interviewee.
It is worth mentioning that the initiative of boat trips began during the pandemic, and “Los Columpios” (the swing) was a novelty for tourists visiting Progreso in search of attractions outside the malecon, which remained closed.
Today, through the independent work of the fishermen, palapas have been built, full moon tours have been organized, and a space has been adapted for making bonfires at night, with environmental care being a factor.
They indicated that the government at any level would not be allowed entry to the pier, which is managed by the same cooperatives and the nautical committee of the municipality. Cases like the one in “Corchito” have caused this precaution among the fishermen.