More Job Loss In San Carlos?

Three more plants might let go as many as 1,000 workers
BY: JAMES BELL

We reported in our last issue that the Conservera San Carlos sardine canning plant is letting go a few hundred employees. This a big blow to Puerto San Carlos, a little town a few hours north of La Paz that’s known for its whale watching and fish canneries. Now, there is talk of at least three other plants in the area that might let go as many as 1,000 workers, according to Ernesto Alvarez,  a delegate from the State´s employment agency. His official statement was: “Yes, it could happen. I really hope not.”

The possibility of further job losses has become a controversial issue for many in San Carlos. Locals in support of Conservera say that in the past, the canning plant has been denied fishing permits for an additional fishing vessel, and faces unfair competition from outsiders. Outsiders meaning large commercial operators with permits to ply the entire coast and exploit the sardine population for use as feed for tuna or other fish farms and food processing, not for human consumption.

Local fishermen argue that no additional permits should be issued for any commercial operation, and that large commercial nets should not be used by the large vessels in the area since they take away resources that belong to small, local fishing cooperatives. Locals have also expressed their frustration with the government officials in charge of fishing and agricultural policies and issuing permits, saying there are conflicts of interest within the agency.

Alvarez also spoke with administration officials from Conservera and said the company is going to begin to fish for tuna on a small scale. The company has relied solely on sardine sales in the past but now hopes to expand its product offerings. Unfortunately, it doesn’t sound like expanding its operations will expand employment, at least not any time soon. San Carlos residents are deeply concerned that their economy is in jeopardy, and expect the employment situation will get worse before it gets better.   ,