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January 23, 2009

Costa Rican Sport Fishing Federation now a reality

Another step forward for tourism and sport fishing: The Billfish Foundation

Just a month after its country's fisheries agency passed measures protecting its sailfish and other sport fishing resources, Costa Rica has formed the first national sport fishing federation representing the interests of its anglers and the sport fishing tourism industry.

The Federacion Costarricense de Pesca Turistica (FECOPT) or Costa Rican Federation for Fishing Tourism was created with the union of four regional associations:  Asociación Cámara de Pesca Turística de Guanacaste, Asociación Nacional de Operadores de Transporte Acuático de Quepos, Asociación de Pesca Turística Costarricense and the San Jose based Asociación Club Amateur de Pesca. 

"The Billfish Foundation is proud to have worked with these organizations, some for over a decade to help develop a cohesive national voice to support sportfishing and marine resource conservation in Costa Rica," said TBF President Ellen Peel.

According to TBF's Central American Conservation Director Herbert Nanne, the new Federation will work to inform the public and government officials on issues vital to maintaining a viable recreational industry in that nation and in building support for billfish conservation.

"Efforts are currently underway to bring members from Los Suenos and the Caribbean coast into the federation," said Nanne

Costa Rica has become a first class destination for tourism especially sport fishing, much of it catch-and-release for billfish. But local charter captains point to unregulated commercial netters and long-liners for a major drop-off of sport fish like sailfish over the past 10 - 20 years.

The announcement came exactly a month after the Costa Rican Fisheries and Aquaculture Institute INCOPESCA (Instituto Costarricense de Pesca y Acuicultura) put a halt to the exportation of sailfish meat and stopped the use of live bait by the commercial long-liners.

Nanne, a past president of INCOPESCA, said the conservation measures were the result of the efforts of many people united in the Costa Rican sailfish conservation front.

"This is a significant first in Costa Rica," he said.

Ms. Peel said TBF will continue to work with the Federation and INCOPESCA in pursuit of other sportfishing and tourism goals like 30 mile coastal buffers as well as complete closures to commercial fishing in specific areas and press for other aggressive billfish conservation measures. 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.

Established in 1986 The Billfish Foundation 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