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April 10, 2008

Peru and The Billfish Foundation set a new standard for billfish conservation

Presidential order will end commercial harvest and sale of billfish

Peru's President Allan Garcia and Minister of Production Rafael Rey, with the assistance of The Billfish Foundation (TBF) and world renowned film maker and conservationist, Dan Winitzky, stepped forward onto the world conservation stage, going where no national leader has gone before. A stunning achievement for marlin and sailfish was realized when Garcia signed a Supreme Declaration on April 2, 2008 to protect these species, collectively called billfish, in waters off Peru. The Presidential Declaration de-commercializes marlins and sailfish - no further commercial harvest or sale will be allowed - and begins a national commitment to ocean conservation and the development of a sustainable sportfishing tourism industry.

"Winitzky was the hinge," said TBF President Ellen Peel, "between TBF's technical expertise and Peru's government in making this giant conservation step for billfish a reality."  (One of Winitzky's conservation films led the successful campaign in Peru to save one of National Geographic's Society Seven Iconic Natural Sanctuaries - the Bahuaja Sonene Park)

 "This unparalleled leadership in ocean conservation for marlin and sailfish is the first clear indicator that nations are beginning to heed TBF's call for responsible conservation and management that will provide great returns to our world, its oceans and citizens through jobs and an improved quality of life," said TBF Board Chairwoman Joan Vernon of Key Biscayne, Florida
 
TBF President Ellen Peel and Nelson, along with Marlin Magazine Editor Dave Ferrell, met with President Garcia, Production Minister Rey, Tourism Minister Mercedes Araoz and Winitzky for this momentous occasion and press conference.  TBF made a commitment to continue scientific support for Peru's visionary fisheries conservation and development project.

 "We are proud to stand with the great country of Peru as the world's eyes look to this extraordinary billfish conservation effort," said Peel.  "We will continue to provide support to sustain and expand the impacts of this action; this is just the first step." 

Billfish are some of the world's most important indicator species of ocean health. Great marlin history was also made fifty-five years earlier in Peru, specifically in waters off Cabo Blanco, Peru, when Texan Alfred Glassell set a world record on his famous boat Miss Texas by catching a female black marlin weighing 1,560 pounds.      

The plan will allow only catch-and-release recreational fishing, with an allowance for world record attempts, which will be crafted in the near future.  No bycatch tolerance will be allowed for commercial vessels to retain marlin or sailfish.  This action follows a 40% reduction in Peru's annual anchoveta quota - an action taken to assure the health of the food chain in Peru's coastal waters.  The Declaration was the result of the applied expertise and diligence by TBF's Chief Scientist Dr. Russell Nelson working with Minister Rey's local experts and Winitzky.  The government's invitation was extended to TBF based on its effectiveness and credibility in billfish conservation and management. 

The completion of the Presidential Declaration, which has the effect of law, had its beginning only 45 days earlier when TBF invited Minister Rey and Winitzky to attend the Miami Boat Show, where the economic possibilities of good conservation were made clear.   The actual Declaration was the product of two weeks of work and negotiations between TBF's Nelson and Peruvian fisheries and marine science staff.  The action is intended to revitalize the once premier striped and black marlin sportfishery in the extremely productive area around Cabo Blanco on Peru's north coast. 

"Tell the angling world that Peru is back on the sportfishing destination map," said Minister Rey.  After the signing ceremony, delegation celebrating sportfishing conservation met in Cabo Blanco with several famous local members of the historic fishing scene of the early 1950s.

 "Talking with these guys who saw all the great marlin caught out of Cabo Blanco in the early days was a great thrill, truly living history" said TBF Board Member Jose "Pepe" Anton from Ecuador.


Visit the President's web site for details in Spanish: http://www.presidencia.gob.pe/