Though no final decisions were made at the Costa Rica Fisheries Institute's board meeting on Friday,The Billfish Foundation (TBF) is cautiously optimistic that changes needed for the protection of sailfish and other sport fishing resources will finally be approved this week.
Early in the month, news of a resolution by the board of director's of Costa Rica's Fisheries Institute INCOPESCA, announcing the great expansion of conservation measures to protect sailfish from commercial fishing was premature. The resolution originally passed Dec. 5th was flawed with inconsistent wording. Following that board meeting and immediately upon receiving a written copy of the resolution, TBF's Central American Conservation Director Herbert Nanne caught the errors. One section of the text prohibits using live bait with longlines and another section established an area closed to the use of live bait with longlines. The area closure was supposed to create a buffer where no longline gear could be used.
Nanne immediately called Luis Dobles, Costa Rica's new executive president of INCOPESCA and reached an agreement to present the solution with the corrected text prepared by the sport fishing leaders to the board on Friday, December 12. Unfortunately nothing was resolved when new issues arose regarding disposition of the sailfish already caught, processed and stored frozen to be checked by INCOPESCA for future exportation. TBF is working with INCOPESCA to develop means to inspect and certify currently frozen inventory and track this product as it leaves the country. After these sailfish are sold no further export will be allowed.
The chief of the INCOPESCA's legal department has recommended meeting with sportfishing representatives on Dec. 17 to again draft the agreement on sailfish conservation measures and to resolve the new issues.
Nanne said, "We're working to get the final document drafted this Wednesdayfor a meeting with the leaders of the sportfishing sector and the president of INCOPESCA that I was able to arrange, thenfor approval on Thursday at the last INCOPESCA board meeting of the year. If approved unanimously, it can be sent for publication on Friday.
"We are very grateful to have Herbert on the ground and vigilant in Costa Rica," said TBF's President Ellen Peel. "If the error in the Dec. 5 resolution hadn't been discovered the effect of the live bait ban would have been lost. TBF's vigilance once again made the difference as has the work with Costa Rican officials over the past year to move towards protection of sailfish and other sport fishing resources."
If passed later this week TBF is hopeful that the new conservation measures will include:
- Prohibiting the use of live bait on longlines,
- Establishment of a 30 mile zone from Quepos south where longlines cannot be deployed from January through March,
- Prohibiting the export of sailfish in an action that will be automatically reviewed in two years, and
- A new regulation prohibiting removing sailfish from the water to take photographs prior to release.
These measures were recommendations developed during an August meeting between Costa Rican sportfishing representatives and INCOPESCA arranged by TBF.
Ms. Peel said TBF is proud to continue to work with a diverse group of Costa Rican sportfishing interests in pursuit of these goals and will continue to press for aggressive billfish conservation measures in the country.
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