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December 22, 2008

Ban on exports of sailfish passes as part of Costa Rican conservation agreement

The Billfish Foundation generally pleased with new regulations
By Tbf

Though not all of the previously agreed measures were passed by the Costa Rican fisheries agencies' board this past week for the protection of sailfish and other sport fishing resources, The Billfish Foundation (TBF) was upbeat about the regulations which were approved.

"The primary concern was the exportation of sailfish meat which now will no longer be allowed as well as stopping the use of live bait by the commercial long-liners," said TBF's Central American Conservation Director Herbert Nanne after seeing the final agreement issued Friday by the Costa Rican Fisheries and Aquaculture Institute INCOPESCA (Instituto Costarricense de Pesca y Acuicultura). Nanne was president of INCOPESCA from 1998 - 2002.

 For a number of years groups like TBF and Costa Rican sportsmen and women united in a billfish conservation front have been working with the government for the expansion of conservation measures to protect sailfish from commercial fishing.

Besides banning sailfish exports other points in the final INCOPESCA agreement were:

·         prohibiting the use of live bait on long-lines which have been found to kill many sailfish;

·         a special INCOPESCA license to capture live bait to be used in other fisheries by commercial long-liners;

·         the proper release of live sailfish, striped marlins, white marlins and swordfish caught by sport fishermen and commercial long-liners, by cutting the line near the leader or as close as possible to the hook without taking the fish out of the water;

·         making it illegal for sport fishers to use gaffs to bring the fish close to the boat or to pull it up on-board for photographic purposes;

·         limiting to a 15% maximum of sailfish permitted as by-catch for commercial purposes.

"If more than 15% are landed the sailfish will be confiscated and donated to nonprofit institutions like elderly homes, schools etc.," said Nanne. "Commercial fishers that want to land sailfish must request an in-port inspection to INCOPESCA prior to landing. For transport and commerce of sailfish in CR, the trucks must have special INCOPESCA inspected documents."   

Nanne said for the full compliance of this agreement INCOPESCA will form a special committee to include INCOPESCA regional directors and sportfishing sector representatives from Golfito and Quepos along with the Costa Rican Coast Guard.

He said INCOPESCA will inventory the sailfish stored in commercial freezers for export purposes no later than the December 28, 2008. After these sailfish are sold no further export will be allowed. 

"These sailfish conservation measures are significant and the first in more than a decade in Costa Rica," said TBF's President Ellen Peel, "and we are proud that the collective efforts of many people were responsible for this victory."

Nanne added the conservation measures are the result of the work of many people united in the Costa Rican Sailfish Conservation Front like Donald McGuinness, Todd Staley, Darren Mc Clave, Jeannette Perez, Jesus Vallejos, Domingo Dominguez, Ricardo Seevers, Alberto Laurencich, Miguel Duran, Rolando Chaves, Raul Miranda and others. 

"We want to also thank Luis Dobles, the new president of INCOPESCA for working diligently by meeting with all the sportfishing leaders in CR, and its board of directors for passing the sailfish conservation measures," said Nanne.

Dr. Russell Nelson, the TBF's scientific director said he and Nanne still have concerns regarding the vulnerability of sailfish that collect in certain areas. The sport fishing contingent had made complete closure requests to long-line commercial fishing along the Pacific coast 30 miles out from Burica at the Costa Rica/Panama border to Quepos during the months of January to May.

"Those and some other important time and zone buffer measures weren't passed by the INCOPESCA board.  But all in all the other measures passed is a much needed start for the expansion of conservation measures," said Nelson        

Ms. Peel said TBF will continue to work with the Costa Rican sportfishing and tourism interests in pursuit of these goals and press for aggressive billfish conservation measures.

The Billfish Foundation was established in 1986 and is the only non-profit organization dedicated solely to conserving and enhancing billfish populations worldwide. With world headquarters in Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., USA, TBF's comprehensive network of members and supporters includes anglers, captains, mates, tournament directors, clubs, sport fishing and tourism businesses.  By coordinating efforts and speaking with one voice, the organization works for solutions that are good for billfish, not punitive to recreational anglers and good for the local economy.

TBF's web site is www.billfish.org