Minerva Smith, well-known IGFA representative and head of the Union of Sport Fishers in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, received the prestigious IGFA Conservation Award at this year's annual IGFA Auction & Banquet. She was presented the award in recognition for her continued efforts on behalf of Baja California sportfishing in a crusade to repeal the flawed Mexican fisheries legislation NOM-029 (commonly known as "Shark Norma") and put a stop to long-lining within recreational fishing boundaries.
Shark Norma, though promoted as offering protection for sea life, allows long-lines and gillnets to be fished within 15 to 20 miles of the Baja coast. Smith has unwaveringly documented the problems this legislation has created since being introduced last year. Currently, it is being reported that shark permits are in a state of disarray, the sale and re-sale of existing permits is unregulated, inspections of fishing equipment are not being conducted, and there is absolutely no enforcement. The result is commercial fishermen can "target" sportfish, the incidental catch of which is prohibited by NOM-029.
Following what the law requires, Minerva has pushed hard for the legislation to be reviewed on its first anniversary by CONAPESCA. She emphasizes, however, that the effort to revise or repeal Shark Norma cannot be left to government officials alone. The goal, she adds, is to unite sportfishing interests, researchers and environmental groups to build a comprehensive Shark Management Plan implementing solid goals and programs.
"The number of supporters grows every day," she says. "We have assembled a formidable legal team to continue the battle within Mexico's judicial system. With everyone's help, we believe that the flawed NOM-029 can be defeated once and for all."
Smith, who is best known by fishermen in Cabo San Lucas as owner of Minerva's Baja Tackle, has also been a vocal advocate in the campaign to promote the use of circle hooks, as well as encouraging local restaurants to remove marlin from their menus.