Costa Rican government officials recently informed The Billfish Foundation (TBF) that it had impounded more than 7,000 kilograms (15,400 pounds) of illegally caught sailfish from a seafood exporter. Sailfish are a protected species in Costa Rica. This meat was bound for Peru and had been falsified as striped marlin.
Illegal Sailfish Meat Seized in Costa Rica
Investigators from two agencies — SENASA (National Animal Health Service) and INCOPESCA (Costa Rican Fisheries and Aquaculture Institute) — seized 7,012 kilos of whole sailfish carcasses. The seafood exporter had falsified documents declaring the shipment as striped marlin, which is presently a legal billfish for exporting.
TBF’s Chief Scientist, Dr. Russell Nelson, and TBF Central American Conservation Director Herbert Nanne received word of the seizure from Dr. Rolando Ramirez of INCOPESCA.
Costa Rica Sport Fishing Federation (FECOPT) Executive Director Enrique Ramirez said in newspaper reports that illegal commercial fishing and the exporting of sailfish meat had been reported for months as FECOPT tried to get the authorities to take action. FECOPT was formed to represent the interests of Costa Rica’s anglers and the sport fishing industry. However, Nelson and Nanne still have concerns regarding the vulnerability of sailfish that collect in certain areas along Costa Rica’s coast.
“We’re told that if INCOPESCA wins this case,” says Nelson, “money from the sale of the meat would go to Costa Rica’s National Guard for enforcement and oversight improvements to protect the fishery.”
Tourism is Costa Rica’s top industry and research showed that North Americans traveling to the country to fish in 2008 generated $599 million — or two percent of Costa Rica’s gross domestic product.
The 2009 study by TBF, Southwick Associates and the University of Costa Rica, showed that 283,790 anglers visited Costa Rica and their economic impact overshadowed commercial fishing.Some 22 percent of those tourists visited the country to exclusively fish.
Since 2008 Costa Rica has been proactive, enacting conservation laws and measures to control commercial overfishing. INCOPESCA passed measures protecting its sailfish and other sport fishing resources by putting a halt to the exportation of sailfish meat and stopped the use of live bait by the commercial longliners.
TBF has been working with the governments of Mexico, Costa Rica and Peru to protect billfish, mainly from overfishing coastal fisheries by commercial interests, while implementing tag and release programs for sportsmen.
Established 25 years ago, TBF is a non-profit organization dedicated solely to conserving and enhancing billfish populations around the world. By coordinating efforts and speaking with one voice, TBF is able to work for solutions that are good for billfish and not punitive to recreational anglers. For more information, visit The Billfish Foundation