Guadeloupe and Martinique threatened as pesticide contaminates food chain | Nutrition & Health |

6 May 2013, The Guardian -- On 15 April more than 100 fishermen demonstrated in the streets of Fort de France, the main town on Martinique, in the French West Indies. In January they barricaded the port until the government in Paris allocated €2m ($2.6m) in aid, which they are still waiting for. The contamination caused by chlordecone, a persistent organochlorine pesticide, means their spiny lobsters are no longer fit for human consumption. The people of neighbouring Guadeloupe are increasingly angry for the same reason. After polluting the soil, the chemical is wreaking havoc out at sea, an environmental disaster that now threatens the whole economy.


"I've been eating pesticide for 30 years so I carry on eating my fish. But what will happen to my grandchildren?" asks Franck Nétri who has fished off the south-east coast of Guadeloupe all his life. Aged 46, he sees little scope for a change of trade. Yet he knows he has no option: the area where fishing has been banned will soon be extended. In 2010 a government decree placed the offshore limit at 500 metres. It will soon be 900 metres.


Chlordecone (aka Kepone) is known to be an endocrine disruptor and was listed as carcinogenic in 1979. The coastline was the last part of the island to be contaminated, as the chemical was gradually washed down by the rivers. Pollution centres on the Basse-Terre area, which specialised in growing bananas for export. As the contamination spread, fishing had to be stopped and freshwater prawn farms closed. The same soon applied to the crabs caught in the mangrove swamps. It remains to be seen which deepwater species will be allowed to be caught in the future.