TBT - (1971) "In the Spirit of Giving"

One day in 1971 a guy named Gary Loff showed up on the island of Utila looking for people to help start a seafood export operation from the Bay Islands, Honduras. No one was sending fresh ocean fish to the U.S. from Honduras at that time and this guy's company in San Pedro Sula was already producing and sending fresh catfish to the States from their fish farm in Calpules, Honduras.

Having the only hotel on the island, the Bahia Lodge, we were the first to learn of this from our guest after he checked in. Seeing an interesting opportunity we jumped on it. I explained to the guy that all we needed was an electrical generator and some refrigeration equipment - which of course would also benefit the running of our hotel, restaurant and bar.

The operation was quickly put together and the Utila fisherman threw themselves into production. The only problem was that many of the fisherman would stop fishing when they had enough money to stay drunk for a few days! So between iffy weather and drunk fishermen - production would often be spotty.

A frequent complaint of the fishermen was that we did not buy all species of the fish that they caught. It was a waste of time and effort - and fish, to not buy everything they could catch. So I talked with Miguel Kawas on the mainland about our donating the surplus fish to the community hospital in La Ceiba - the hospital that took care of the poor in this area of the Honduran coast.

When the fishermen on Utila were told about this arrangement they showed great generosity and readily donated the unwanted fish to the hospital. The local airlines 'LANSA' had also agreed to fly the fish to the mainland without it costing anyone a cent. So the program was a great success - thanks to everyone's co-operation.

After a few months of doing this the fish export company in San Pedro decided to stop the shipments from Utila. They explained that buying the fish from Utila was an experiment and there was not enough consistent production with the quantities needed to continue. Then I went to La Ceiba to explain why there would be no more donated fish for the hospital - and was told that the people in the hospital kitchen would be very disappointed as they had been selling the fillets cut from the fish out the back door of the hospital and just making soup with the heads and bones for the hospital patients.

And so - the good will of the many can be thwarted by the few.

But the generosity of the Utila fishermen will never be forgotten.

Happy New Year!!!