Picturing the people of Danajon Bank, part one

By Tyler Stiem

Children diving for gastropod eggs at low tide.

Children diving for gastropod eggs at low tide.

Over half a million people call Danajon Bank home. They live in coastal villages and on the tiny, teeming islands that dot the bank. All, or nearly all of them depend on the reef for food and income. It’s not an easy living. Overfishing is a problem, and over the years it has become harder and harder for people to catch enough food to eat and sell.

Out of necessity, fishers get creative. Some resort to fishing practices that can harm the reef, such as blasting, cyanide fishing, and trawling. Others find ways to live sustainably off Danajon Bank. Every community fishes, but some have adopted seaweed farming or established no-take marine reserves, practices that can (but, it has to be admitted, don’t always) reduce human impact on the ecosystem. Project Seahorse and other, local organizations have been working for years with communities to establish new reserves and sustainability in general.

One thing’s for certain: The communities of Danajon Bank are as vibrant as any coral reef. A great time to visit is at low tide, usually around dusk, when families go out together on the hunt for treats left behind when the water retreats from shore. Mainly it’s mothers and children, but fathers sometimes join too. They search the tidal pools and dig up the wet sand in search of crabs, gastropods, and other small, delectable sea creatures.

A woman gleans for shellfish

A woman gleans for shellfish

Expedition photographers Mike Ready, Claudio Contreras Koob, and Luciano Candisani spent days with the fishing villages of Danajon Bank. They documented this practice, which is known as gleaning. They visited seaweed farmers and marine reserves, they met net fishers and free divers and everyone in between. Here are a few of their photos: 

A fisher shows his catch. Dwindling fish stocks means fishers must catch smaller and smaller fish.

A fisher shows his catch. Dwindling fish stocks means fishers must catch smaller and smaller fish.

A boy wears a homemade mask. 

A boy wears a homemade mask. 

A fisher mends his net.

A fisher mends his net.