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photo by Eric Jackson

Catching dinner

Here we have four men in cayucos seining for shrimp right off of Punta Paitilla. It's common, but not quite legal. Panama Bay is horribly polluted, mostly from untreated sewage. The biggest single source of the gross effluent is the Matasnillo River, the mouth of which is about a half-mile from where these men are casting their nets. Nobody is stopping these men from doing what they have to do to procure their own dinner, but if they offer their catch for sale they will sooner or later have some serious problems with public health authorities.

That said, however, over the years tests have revealed that despite the pollution the shrimp taken out of Panama Bay are not particularly infectious or toxic to eat, especially if they are cooked first. But heaven help you if you eat raw or undercooked oysters that have been gathered along the adjacent shoreline.

Panama means "abundance of fish" and seafood is a very important part of our culture. However, you need to be a smart consumer. One good way to start is to buy your fresh seafood at the municipal seafood market on Avenida Balboa, which is constantly monitored by health inspectors.


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