The Conservation Captain of Cusuna

Juvencio Suazo Bernárdez ('Don Juvencio') is a Fish Forever champion, community leader, and turtle conservationist from the Garifuna community of Cusuna, municipality of Iriona, in Honduras's Colón department.
August 4, 2023

[The following is based on an interview with Don Juvencio in January 2023. The transcript is edited for brevity.]  

At the age of 13, I became independent from my family. I went to La Ceiba to study. I found work in Roatán as a lobster trapper on an industrial ship. Then I went to Nicaragua and became captain of my own boat. But later I didn’t like that life anymore because life at sea is very dangerous.

I came home and stayed here in the community… to take care of my children, to give the best gift from a father to his children: education. I sent my children to school. Then I started seeing the need in my community to organize. So, in 2001, I started a farmers’ association.

Then I started many more. And I noticed that you don’t see turtles anymore. The industrial ships come and kill them, from the smallest to the largest. So, as organized fishermen, we decided to look after these animals and conserve them.

We want our great-grandchildren and grandchildren to get to know the types of fish species that we have here. That is what we are looking for—protecting those 12 nautical miles so that there is production, so the turtles can return. We are not doing it for ourselves; we are doing it for them, for the future.

The biggest challenges here are the lack of work and migration of our youth. I am trying to get young people involved. There is no employment generation here. All of us Garifuna communities along the North Coast work in fishing and agriculture. We don’t fish to get rich, we don’t farm to get rich from it, but rather, it is for our livelihood, to bring food home and feed our family.

My community is strong. We still protect our natural resources. My vision is to see my community grow, have more opportunities, employment, a university. It’s my dream. Being part of this community, being a son of this community, I feel proud to continue working to see it grow.