Photos: Risking death by poverty, lobster divers make perilous dives in Honduras

In Honduras more than 60% of the population lives in poverty and Mosquitia is one of its most impoverished areas. Here, diving for lobster permeates everyday life. A diver makes $3 per pound of lobster and 28 cents for each sea cucumber. Many divers of Mosquitia dive deep, surface quickly and then go back for more, racing to collect as much lobster as possible risking their life and suffering from decompression sickness caused when nitrogen bubbles form in their bodies.

UPDATED ON DEC 27, 2018 12:53 PM IST 10 Photos
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A diver holds onto his catch of lobsters during a fishing journey in the Miskito coast near Cay Savannah, Honduras. Thousands of men across the Mosquitia region of Honduras and Nicaragua depend on lobsters to eke out a living. And hundreds have been stricken with the bends — decompression sickness caused when nitrogen bubbles form in divers’ bodies. Some are paralysed. Some are killed. (Rodrigo Abd / AP)

A diver holds onto his catch of lobsters during a fishing journey in the Miskito coast near Cay Savannah, Honduras. Thousands of men across the Mosquitia region of Honduras and Nicaragua depend on lobsters to eke out a living. And hundreds have been stricken with the bends — decompression sickness caused when nitrogen bubbles form in divers’ bodies. Some are paralysed. Some are killed. (Rodrigo Abd / AP)

UPDATED ON DEC 27, 2018 12:53 PM IST
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Saul Ronaldo Atiliano was diving for lobster in the clear waters off Honduras’ coast when he felt a pressure, a pain in his body. And he knew he’d gotten the sickness that has killed or disabled so many of his Miskito comrades. “The pressure attacked me deep in the water,” said Atiliano, a 45-year-old who for 25 years has dived for lobsters, most of which wind up exported to the United States. (Rodrigo Abd / AP)

Saul Ronaldo Atiliano was diving for lobster in the clear waters off Honduras’ coast when he felt a pressure, a pain in his body. And he knew he’d gotten the sickness that has killed or disabled so many of his Miskito comrades. “The pressure attacked me deep in the water,” said Atiliano, a 45-year-old who for 25 years has dived for lobsters, most of which wind up exported to the United States. (Rodrigo Abd / AP)

UPDATED ON DEC 27, 2018 12:53 PM IST
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Lobster diver Misael Banegas Diaz, 49, paralysed by decompression sickness is lifted by physical therapist Cedrak Waldan Mendoza into a hyperbaric chamber at the hospital in Puerto Lempira, Honduras. With more than 60% of its 9 million people living in poverty, Honduras is one of the poorest countries in Latin America, and the Mosquitia one of the most impoverished areas. (Rodrigo Abd / AP)

Lobster diver Misael Banegas Diaz, 49, paralysed by decompression sickness is lifted by physical therapist Cedrak Waldan Mendoza into a hyperbaric chamber at the hospital in Puerto Lempira, Honduras. With more than 60% of its 9 million people living in poverty, Honduras is one of the poorest countries in Latin America, and the Mosquitia one of the most impoverished areas. (Rodrigo Abd / AP)

UPDATED ON DEC 27, 2018 12:53 PM IST
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Miskito divers stricken with decompression sickness climb into a hyperbaric chamber. Decompression sickness is usually treatable with sessions in such high-pressure, oxygen-rich chambers, but there are only a few available along the coast, and divers must often wait several days before they can be treated — reducing chances of recovery. (Rodrigo Abd / AP)

Miskito divers stricken with decompression sickness climb into a hyperbaric chamber. Decompression sickness is usually treatable with sessions in such high-pressure, oxygen-rich chambers, but there are only a few available along the coast, and divers must often wait several days before they can be treated — reducing chances of recovery. (Rodrigo Abd / AP)

UPDATED ON DEC 27, 2018 12:53 PM IST
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Paralysed by decompression sickness in 2017, Charles “Charly” Melendez, 28, stares at the ceiling lying on the floorboards of a rented room surrounded by his children. Safe standard diving techniques call for a gradual ascent to the surface to eliminate the nitrogen that the body absorbs. But many Mosquitia divers go deep, surface quickly and then go back for more, racing to collect as much lobster as possible. (Rodrigo Abd / AP)

Paralysed by decompression sickness in 2017, Charles “Charly” Melendez, 28, stares at the ceiling lying on the floorboards of a rented room surrounded by his children. Safe standard diving techniques call for a gradual ascent to the surface to eliminate the nitrogen that the body absorbs. But many Mosquitia divers go deep, surface quickly and then go back for more, racing to collect as much lobster as possible. (Rodrigo Abd / AP)

UPDATED ON DEC 27, 2018 12:53 PM IST
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Charly was 16 and had harvested 60 pounds of lobster on the day in November 2017 that he was injured. Even now, after nine sessions, he hasn’t recovered. For a man who always made his living diving, it’s a nightmare being confined to a wheelchair. “I still can’t stand up by myself,” he said. “I can’t sit for a long time; after an hour my body hurts.” (Rodrigo Abd / AP)

Charly was 16 and had harvested 60 pounds of lobster on the day in November 2017 that he was injured. Even now, after nine sessions, he hasn’t recovered. For a man who always made his living diving, it’s a nightmare being confined to a wheelchair. “I still can’t stand up by myself,” he said. “I can’t sit for a long time; after an hour my body hurts.” (Rodrigo Abd / AP)

UPDATED ON DEC 27, 2018 12:53 PM IST
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Sonia Wills (L), accompanied by relatives, mourns over the coffin of her 31-year-old son Oscar Salomon Charly, during a wake in her home. Just how many have been stricken is somewhat unclear, though it’s a large number for such small communities. Jorge Gomez Santos, a former president of the Association of Disabled Honduran Miskito Divers, said at least 1,300 have been disabled since 1980, 14 have died this year alone. (Rodrigo Abd / AP)

Sonia Wills (L), accompanied by relatives, mourns over the coffin of her 31-year-old son Oscar Salomon Charly, during a wake in her home. Just how many have been stricken is somewhat unclear, though it’s a large number for such small communities. Jorge Gomez Santos, a former president of the Association of Disabled Honduran Miskito Divers, said at least 1,300 have been disabled since 1980, 14 have died this year alone. (Rodrigo Abd / AP)

UPDATED ON DEC 27, 2018 12:53 PM IST
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Dogs eat scraps left by family and friends attending the funeral of Oscar Salomon Charly. The father of 10 was paralysed on the boat, which didn’t reach the docks for another day and a half. Fellow divers then drove him about 10 blocks to the hospital with a US-donated hyperbaric chamber in city of Puerto Lempira. (Rodrigo Abd / AP)

Dogs eat scraps left by family and friends attending the funeral of Oscar Salomon Charly. The father of 10 was paralysed on the boat, which didn’t reach the docks for another day and a half. Fellow divers then drove him about 10 blocks to the hospital with a US-donated hyperbaric chamber in city of Puerto Lempira. (Rodrigo Abd / AP)

UPDATED ON DEC 27, 2018 12:53 PM IST
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Miskito divers wait to board a boat for a two-week fishing trip to harvest sea cucumbers, in Krata, Honduras. A diver makes $3 per pound of lobster and 28 cents for each sea cucumber. An average 10-pound daily haul of lobster is a windfall in one of the most impoverished regions of the Americas, so many take the risk, and many suffer for it. (Rodrigo Abd / AP)

Miskito divers wait to board a boat for a two-week fishing trip to harvest sea cucumbers, in Krata, Honduras. A diver makes $3 per pound of lobster and 28 cents for each sea cucumber. An average 10-pound daily haul of lobster is a windfall in one of the most impoverished regions of the Americas, so many take the risk, and many suffer for it. (Rodrigo Abd / AP)

UPDATED ON DEC 27, 2018 12:53 PM IST
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Charles Melendez, 5, and his 4-year-old brother Jefferson, play with their father’s wheelchair while he rests. A study more than a decade ago cited by the Pan American Health Organization reported there were around 9,000 divers in the Mosquitia, and around 4,200 --47%-- were disabled by decompression sickness. Atiliano said he expects to return to sea, not because he wants to, but for lack of options. (Rodrigo Abd / AP)

Charles Melendez, 5, and his 4-year-old brother Jefferson, play with their father’s wheelchair while he rests. A study more than a decade ago cited by the Pan American Health Organization reported there were around 9,000 divers in the Mosquitia, and around 4,200 --47%-- were disabled by decompression sickness. Atiliano said he expects to return to sea, not because he wants to, but for lack of options. (Rodrigo Abd / AP)

UPDATED ON DEC 27, 2018 12:53 PM IST

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