Sport fishermen can help change this:

Tuna like Yos Disan’s recent catch is common nowadays near the shore

At the same time, the number of sailboats captured and released by the sport fishing fleet is down 70% in some parts of the country while commercial sailboat landings have increased by 126%.

Even though the law states that sailfish, marlin, and tarpon are species of tourist interest and need to be regulated, the government allows 15% of incidental catches from commercial vessels which can be sailboats and sold in the domestic market.

Before Covid, sport fishing tourism injected $ 500 million a year into the Costa Rican economy. After more than a year of very little tourism, many people are already making reservations for the next fishing season. Dr. Marina Marrari wants there to be the sailboat, the most sought after fish by charter fishing tourists.

Dr. Marina Marrari is a data expert and director of FECOP, the sport fishing lobby in Costa Rica, and has been studying catch data from the sport fishing and commercial fishing sectors for some time.

First, Marrari looked at what other countries are doing. The United States, Guatemala, Nicaragua and Panama all ban the sale of the sailboat. Mexico reserves marlin and sails for the sport fishing industry and no commercial fishing within the first 50 miles of the coast.

El Salvador and Costa Rica were the only countries in North and Central America in the eastern tropical Pacific to allow the sailboat to be marketed. El Salvador has just adopted a regulation increasing the commercial longline fleet to 75 miles.

She also noted that billfish (marlin and sailfish) are landed in Costa Rican ports in trunks, which means that the head, tail and fins are removed at sea. This also adds weight when we consider the catch percentages authorized in Costa Rica and make it difficult to identify the billfish species in question.

Looking at sailboat landings over the past decade, Marrari noticed that while commercial sailboat landings increased, the number of sport fishermen continued to decline. The graphical representation of this data showed that each time there was a peak in commercial landings, sport fishing catches declined. This has been attributed to both the increase in live bait used by the commercial fleet and illegal fishing practices.

Some of the factors noted for the decline were: Bait fishing in Golfo Dulce and Golfo Nicoya. (illegal). Live bait fishing within 30 miles of the coast, which is considered by the government to be direct sailfish fishing. Unattended and unmarked longlines. (the equipment must be marked with the identification of the owner’s boat). Billfish landed in trunks and the regulations in force are not applied.

Dr. Marrari and his fellow scientists at Fecop recently presented the case to the board of directors of Incopesca, the government agency responsible for fishing in Costa Rica, and also formally called for a ban on the marketing of the sailboat.

This is not a new idea. It was first requested 30 years ago and the box has been launched in the last 3 decades. Marrari is determined to change that and is asking for help in the form of data.

There were meetings that followed in which Incopesca said that enforcing the current regulations would solve the problem of essentially passing the buck, because if Incopesca makes the rule, the Coast Guard is responsible for enforcing them. .

Incopesca has also said it needs more data, which is a common demand when looking to reform fishing regulations. Marrari was not influenced. She is taking her case to other government agencies and has asked to present it to Incopesca’s scientific committee. Their recommendations weigh heavily on the board.

In 2019, 370,000 kilos of sailboats were landed in Costa Rica’s commercial ports. If you calculate the body weight of a fish after removing the head and tail, that represents between 16,000 and 19,000 dead sailboats in a year.

How can you help:

The larger the database, the more powerful it is. It asks sport fishing fleets to share their catch data going back as far as possible. Now is the perfect time to organize your old logbooks. Marrari will be happy to make your appointment and digitize it free of charge. She will not share any personal data but will be happy to share the totals results and the trends it produces that we all already know. But as W. Edwards Deming said so deeply, “Without data, you are just another person with an opinion.”

Please send a note to [email protected] with your contact details and she will contact you.

Todd Staley has led sport fishing operations in Costa Rica for almost 30 years and works in marine conservation. He is currently Director of Communications for FECOP, the Costa Rican Fishing Federation (, sits on the Central American Council of the International Game Fish Association and oversees fishing operations at Crocodile Bay Resort. Contact him at [email protected]

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