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Searching for the World’s Last Sawfish in Costa Rica

“I Have Never Seen This Animal”

Beginning in 2012, Leeney visited coastal communities along both East and West Africa with photos of sawfishes in hand. “Do you know this fish? When did you last see it?” she asked hundreds coastal fishers.

A pattern soon emerged: Older fishermen knew sawfishes firsthand, but their sons did not. “If you’d just spoken to [the sons], you’d get the impression that there had never been sawfish in that part of the world,” Leeney says. “They would look at the image [of a sawfish] and say, ‘I have never seen this animal before in my life.’” With a few exceptions in Madagascar and Mozambique, where she met fishers who had caught a sawfish in the past year or two, the story that emerged was one of loss. Africa’s sawfishes had disappeared within a period of twenty years from the waters of cultures that once knew them so intimately they featured on their currencies and in their folklore.

Ruth Leeney holds a young narrow sawfish caught at the mouth of the Sepik River, in Papua New Guinea. Once she measured and determined the sex of the sawfish, it was released back to the ocean.

Photograph courtesy of Ruth Leeney

During Leeney’s time working in Africa, she found that the disappearance of sawfishes was linked to an equally dramatic decline of other fish in coastal waters—one that has left many subsistence fishers living in food insecurity. Fishermen whose grandfathers made a living casting a net from the shoreline were having to abandon the profession as the scarcity of fish sent them further offshore on longer and longer fishing trips.

“We have to be able to work with these communities to develop other livelihood options, because unless they have other means of making a living, they will continue to exploit resources they know have value,” she says. “The conservation value of a sawfish is meaningless to someone who is living hand-to-mouth.”

Any efforts to save sawfish will have positive effects on related issues that plague the coastal communities in many developing countries. Chief among them are food security and blue carbon, a term referring to efforts to mitigate climate change through the conservation and restoration of coastal ecosystems such as mangroves and seagrass

“If you can solve the sawfish problem, you’ve solved the blue carbon and food security problem,” says Nick Dulvy. “Because if you’ve solved sawfish, you’ve figured out how to make tropical fisheries appropriately selective and sustainable.”

This article and all photos Copyright 2019 National Geographic

 

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Costa Rica Sea Lion

Lost Sea Lion Visits Costa Rica for the Holiday Weekend

Yet another sign Costa Rica is a great place  for fishing as a Sea Lion – a master fisherman himself, shows up for Holy Week in Costa Rica

Sea Lion Swims Ashore on Malpaís Beach, Costa Rica

This species belongs to the family of seals and walruses, which form the group of marine mammals known as pinnipeds.

NCRNoticias.Com Editorial Staff Published: April 18, 2

This Thursday a Sea Lion was seen on a beach in Malpaís Costa Rica.

A user of social networks recorded the moment in which the mammal left the sea to perch on the rocks.

Sea lions are always in areas close to the coast and are cooler than tropical waters, so it is not common to see them in Costa Rica, but rather in South America or very in the north.

In Costa Rica, there have been sightings on the beaches of Punta de Banco, Pavones de Golfito, and San Pedrillo, in the Corcovado National Park, located in the province of Puntarenas, as reported by tourists and foresters to the press.

One possibility of the arrival of these mammals is to hunt food and move away from their natural area, it can also be by marine currents, but they do not get to stay, and they do not establish a population here.

The sea lion is a carnivore that fishes and, according to its species, is very social, so it seeks to be in large communities other sea lions.

It is very risky to say that climate change has to do with the arrival of sea lions on the coast and that a pattern and more studies should be established to verify this.

Sea lions arrive for a few days to rest, for the loss of direction or because they are sick.

A sea lion weighs between 275 and 450 kilograms and measures between 1.7 and 2.5 meters, is capable of submerging up to 186 meters and can be under water up to 40 minutes.

Also, nothing up to 40 kilometers per hour, although some people may consider him a lazy animal because he likes to relax and sunbathe.

Currently, there are six species of sea lions: California, Steller, Australian, Galápagos, New Zealand and South American. Sea Lions love fish and are frequently seen harassing fisherman for their catch in areas up North such as Mexico and the Pacific Northwest.

Learn more about Sport Fishing in Costa Rica

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Costa Rica Sport FIshing

Everything You Should Know About Sport Fishing in Costa Rica

EVERYTHING YOU SHOULD KNOW ABOUT FISHING IN COSTA RICA – THE ANGLER’S PARADISE

One of few places in the world you can average 10 or more billfish per day with the possibility of catching and releasing 4 different species the same day. Only few other places on earth that can beat that record!”
— Press Release by Danny Lombardo for EIN News

JACO, NEW YORK, COSTA RICA, April 14, 2019 – Fishing in Costa Rica – The Angler’s Paradise

Nature has endowed Costa Rica with vast swathes of rich coastal ecosystems, making it one of the best fishing destinations of the world. Sandwiched between the Caribbean Sea and Pacific Ocean, Costa Rica commands 800 miles of coastline. The sportfishing opportunities here are nothing less than phenomenal.

As a top fishing destination, the country attracts thousands of eager anglers and trophy hunters every year from the US and Canada. While the most sought-after game fish in Costa Rica is the billfish (the collective name for marlin and sailfish), anglers can put their skills to test in big game involving dorado, tuna, snapper, roosterfish, and wahoo.

In the unrelenting world of sport fishing, Costa Rica manages to emerge victorious many a time, going by the fishing records, which include dozens of prestigious IGFA titles. Many a reputation has been built here. Many a record created or trounced. To illustrate from a recent example, 54 marlins were caught and released during the Offshore World Championship Billfish Tournament held this year. If you know your marlin well, it’s one tough cookie. Forget 54; getting just one could be your crowning moment.

The Best Time to Fish in Costa Rica

All seasons are not made equal and neither is the fishing experience. But the good news is that in Costa Rica, any time is a good time for fishing. Says Parker Bankston, a fishing veteran, “The ocean is calm 95% of the time. There’s great fishing to be done, no matter what the season is.”

How can this be? Aren’t summers universally the best time to fish? To understand this, we need to make ourselves familiar with how the seasons play out in Costa Rica. (Most of what is explained here applies to the Pacific Coast. The Caribbean side has slightly different weather conditions.)

The concepts of summer and winter don’t really apply to Costa Rica. The country enjoys a tropical climate and experiences two kinds of seasons – dry and wet. The average annual temperature is 70 to 81 degrees Fahrenheit. There is no drastic variation in temperature during the dry or wet seasons; rather the seasons are distinguished by the amount of rainfall received.

Dry Season or Verano (Dec-Apr)

The dry season is marked by clear skies and calm waters. Together, they set the stage for some serious billfishing in the Pacific. Starting December, the billfish make their way into Central Pacific. Their numbers start swelling from January through April. Many a tournament is launched, creating near frenzy among anglers to exhibit their competitive prowess.

Wet Season or Invierno (May-Nov)

It is when Costa Rica receives most of its rain, which averages 100 inches. Also called the green season, Invierno comes as a relief from the summer spell. Fortunately, the rains are mostly confined to afternoons and evenings, which leaves a window of opportunity open for fishing in the mornings. During May, June, July, and November (called the hedge months), it only rains for a few hours in the afternoon. October, by far, is the rainiest month.

Inshore Vs Offshore Sport Fishing in Costa Rica

For inexperienced anglers, the whole inshore and offshore conundrum might be a little perplexing. Does it make a difference if you are fishing inshore or offshore in Costa Rica? Yes, it does. Where does the best fishing happen, inshore or offshore? In both places. It all depends on your tastes and the expectations and goals you set for fishing in Costa Rica. Let’s first unpack this whole inshore and offshore thing before wading deeper into those waters.

Costa Rica Sport Fishing

Inshore Fishing in Costa Rica

Fishing anywhere within 30 miles of shoreline classifies as inshore fishing. The average run time is between 15 minutes to an hour, so inshore fishing trips can be made with just half a day to spare. However, once you get the taste of inshore fishing and get reeled in by a giant rooster, you’ll want to hang out the entire day. Because of the relatively relaxed style of fishing, inshore fishing is a hit with families out with kids.

Offshore Fishing in Costa Rica

If your heart is set on the deeper treasures of the ocean, the marlin, sailfish, wahoo, or yellowfin tuna, you need to head as far as 120 miles into the Pacific. Equipped with sonar, GPS, and state-of-the-art fishing gear, and steered by a hardy captain and crew, your offshore fishing trip could result in some epic encounters with the elusive marlins, which travel at a speed of 60 miles per hour.

Costa Rica Marlin Fishing

Sport fishing in Costa Rica: Legal Aspects

Fishing is an important source of income for Costa Rica and regulations are in place to ensure that fishing-related activities are responsible and the fish stock is not depleted. Here’s a quick rundown of things to be aware of when fishing in Costa Rica:

Fishing License All anglers need a valid fishing license issued by INCOPESCA, the Costa Rican Fisheries Institute. The license, which can be obtained online, costs $15 for 8 days, $30 for a month, and $50 for a year, regardless of whether you are a native or a foreigner.

Catch and Release All billfish should be live-released by law. To ensure their chances of survival, they are brought only up to the side of the boat before being released into the ocean. Anglers are free to keep and consume other fish they catch, such as snapper, dorado, tuna, and wahoo.

Start Planning Right Away!

A great time is guaranteed, no matter whether you are a new, lapsed, or an accomplished angler. Remember to pack your camera and leave your tackle behind. They aren’t as effective in the Pacific as they are in the Atlantic. All the leading fishing charters in Costa Rica are fitted with top class gear for the fast-paced fishing demanded by the Pacific.

 

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Costa Rica Circle Hook Fishing

The Circle Hook Revolution

Costa Rica Fishing Conservation – The Circle Hook Revolution

 

Marlin Magazine

Published for Marlin Magazine

The Beginning

In 1998, circle hooks exploded on the American sport-fishing scene with Capt. Ron Hamlin’s declaration that he would use nothing but circle hooks when fishing with bait. The announcement came as he was accepting the annual release award for the most Pacific sailfish in a single season (546 sails caught on J hooks in 1997). Tired of seeing gut-hooked billfish gushing blood, that night he denounced the J hooks that had brought him so much success. What the spectators did not realize was that Hamlin had experienced a catch-per-unit effort rate of 65 percent or better for circle hooks on sailfish in Guatemala, compared to 50 percent with J hooks. From his perspective, it was a no-brainer that would tremendously benefit the fishery.

black and white image of boat captains

Capt. Ron Hamlin, Joan Vernon and Tim Choate each made a substantial case for industrywide circle-hook use, which prompted the rest of the fishing world to follow.

Richard Gibson

His employer, Tim Choate, had mandated the use of circle hooks by all five of his Artmarina-owned charter boats even before science had proved that billfish survival rates greatly increase with circle hooks. In his speech that night, Hamlin acknowledged Capt. Peter B. Wright and angler Skip Walton for bringing circle hooks to Guatemala after first using them in the giant bluefin tuna fishery off North Carolina.

A charter captain, and owner of Red Drum Tackle in Hatteras, North Carolina, Capt. Bob Eakes had a lot to do with pioneering the area’s bluefin tuna fishery, bringing in Wright and marine scientists such as Dr. Eric Prince

Prince, now retired from his post as head of the NOAA Fisheries Service Southeast Fisheries Science Center in Miami says it all began in 1995, approximately two years before they started tagging bluefin tuna with implantable, archival and pop-up satellite tags. “The big question was how to minimize the damage and stress of capture so the tuna would survive the surgical implantation of the oversize tags, which then cost about $4,500, so survival was essential,” he says.

Wright and his mate, Scott Levin, suggested a plan to bring the fish aboard through the tuna door and insert a saltwater washdown hose in the tuna’s mouth to oxygenate the fish, along with using a cloth to cover the eyes and body.

“This helped eliminate stress from handling,” Prince relates. But it was the circle hook that Eakes first suggested that eliminated gut hooking, ensuring the long-term health of the fish. “On our fishing trips, every tuna caught on circle hooks was hooked in the hinge of the jaw. Looking at it with a little biological insight, I could see the benefits not just for endangered bluefin tunas, but also to reduce gut-hooking sailfish.”

After expressing those insights to Wright, Prince shared them with Choate, who suggested a fishing trip out of Guatemala, where catch rates exceed 40 sailfish per day, to provide a suitable test. The success of that expedition led to a scientific study by Prince in March and May of 1999.

Dead-bait trolling off Iztapa, Guatemala, showed conclusively that circle hooks produce more fish that are released without evidence of bleeding. Out of 461 sailfish bites, they hooked 360. Using an equal number of J hooks and circle hooks, 125 were caught and released on J hooks versus 235 on circle hooks. Out of those 235 releases, only 14 sailfish showed any signs of bleeding, six of which were deemed severe. Of the J-hook-caught fish, 71 had bleeding, 32 of which were deemed severe. The conclusion? Sailfish caught on J hooks are 21 times more likely to suffer hook-related bleeding — and possible death — than fish caught on circle hooks. Furthermore, circle hooks had a higher hookup percentage. Follow-up studies all came to the same conclusion: Significant conservation benefits can be realized in dead- and live-bait fisheries for billfish and tuna by simply changing the terminal tackle from J hooks to circle hooks.

“The simplicity [of one change] really touched a chord,” Prince says.

sailfish jumping in the air

Sailfish caught on circle hooks benefit both angler and fish with higher hook-up ratios and lower mortality rates

Bubba Naquin

Central America Leads the Way

Like a messiah spreading the gospel, Hamlin broadcast the success of circle hooks to every influential angler he knew. In Joan Vernon, he found a disciple. Since the year 2000, she has personally caught more than 2,200 billfish — all on circle hooks.

“Hamlin explained he had a new hook he wanted me to try,” she recalls. “At first, I was a little skeptical about using circle hooks with the 8- and 12-pound-test tackle I used for sailfish, but I had no trouble hooking them. Every fish was hooked right where Hamlin predicted: in the hinge of the jaw. I was convinced, but getting everyone else on board would be a challenge.”

Vernon is also the executive director of the Presidential Challenge of Central America tournament series. Founded in 1996, the tournaments were originally held in Panama, Costa Rica, Venezuela and Guatemala (now also in Aruba for the past decade). They are fun events, but at their core they are meant to ensure the continued abundance of healthy billfish populations throughout Central America and the Caribbean through research and education. At the 1998 Sport Fishing Economic Conference of Central America — held for scientists, resort and charter operators and politicians — she floated the idea of circle hooks as a tool in reducing billfish mortality.

Putting her money where her mouth is, Vernon announced the 1999 Presidential Challenge series would become the world’s first all-circle hook release tournament.

“I had no idea if the anglers would go for it, but there was no opposition,” she says. A few years later, Costa Rica and Guatemala declared circle hooks mandatory for recreational billfish caught in their territorial waters.

“By 2005, virtually every tournament in Central America had gone to circle hooks,” she adds. “And in countries with no recreational circle-hook laws, they were mandated by the local resorts and lodges in these fishing destinations.”

Vernon also helped found the Yamaha Contender Miami Sportfish Tournament — previously known as the Miami Billfish Tournament — and was its executive director in 1982.

“The whole premise was to raise funds for conservation and education, but committee members were afraid of losing participation if we went to circle hooks,” explains longtime tournament committee member Capt. Bouncer Smith. Despite Prince’s convincing research that circle hooks produced better hookup rates while substantially reducing mortality, the others on the board were resistant. “Finally it was suggested we ease into circle hooks by creating a separate division.

Vernon refused. “‘It’s a complete rule change, or nothing,’ she said at the time, making it the first tournament in the United States to require the use of circle hooks,” Smith relates.

circle hook rigging bait

In just 10 years, a small change in terminal tackle has made a significant difference in billfish survival rates around the world. The design also produces higher catch rates for most species.

©️Scott Kerrigan/www.aquapaparazzi.com

Bridling and Larger Hooks

Smith first joined the circle-hook revolution after hearing an impassioned talk by Hamlin and Choate at the Miami Rod and Reel Club in 1998. Experimenting first with 5/0 Eagle Claw circle hooks that matched the size of the J hooks he used for sailfishing, he was discouraged.

“I lost two sailfish in a row on them, so I went back to my J hooks,” Smith says. “Months later, I caught a white marlin on a J hook that bled to death. It was then I recalled Hamlin’s speech at the fishing club. So, I upgraded the size of the circle hooks to a wide-gap 7/0 and gave them another try. I started having immediate success. Larger-size hooks were the answer.”

Twenty years later he’s still having success, having gone from using 7/0 Eagle Claws to 6/0 VMC circle hooks for sailfish and other species.

“I’ve found the more exposed the hook is, the better the hookup percentage,” adds Smith, who primarily fishes bridled baits with non-offset circle hooks. Another refinement is using slightly rounder rubber bands when rigging his baits. “They solved the problems I was having with common rubber hair bands that cut into the baits.”

Capt. Bobby Brown first used circle hooks for pitching baits to marlin well before it became the norm. In 1996, he was working for Fonda and Wayne Huizenga of Fort Lauderdale, Florida, teaching them the pitch-bait technique with a favorite blue marlin bait — fresh squid — when he encountered a problem. “The squid was wrapping around the J hooks, so I decided to try circle hooks. On the first cast we caught a blue marlin,” he says.

After a month of marlin success, he tried trolling for sailfish with circle hooks, but the only hooks available at the time were made of heavy wire, and in sizes too large for sailfish. “The fish were coming to the bait and fading away,” he explains. He had all but given up on circle hooks for smaller billfish when Eagle Claw and The Billfish Foundation launched a lighter wire hook that became an instant hit.

circle hook in fish jaw

Keeping the circle hook a short distance from the bait gives it enough room to find its way to the corner of the fish’s jaw — where it belongs — without obstruction.

©️Scott Kerrigan/www.aquapaparazzi.com

East vs. West

In the early 1990s, long-range fishermen out of San Diego began experimenting with circle hooks while chunking for southern bluefin tuna. Using small-diameter fluorocarbon leaders and circle hooks with live sardines, the catch rates skyrocketed. Not only were the hooks stronger for their size, the bait swam more naturally. By using circle hooks that tend to lodge in the hinge of the jaw, they also solved the problems they’d had with fish chafing the light leaders

Since then, circle hooks have become standard equipment, says well-known Southern California angler Ben Secrest. “Circle hooks are like a mousetrap for bluefins; once they latch on, they don’t come off,” he reports. These days, he fishes skipping Yummee flying fish and bridled natural baits with Owner 11/0 circle hooks — straight from the rigger or from a kite stabilized with a helium balloon. “I have had the best results with larger-size hooks, and my hookup ratio is running 20 percent better with circle hooks.”

ringer swivel bait

The Ringer Swivel makes changing baits easier as well as allowing the hook to rotate freely.

ringer swivel bait

Rigging Techniques Vary

Capt. Kyle Francis of Jensen Beach, Florida, has been fishing circle hooks since he was 15 and has complete confidence in them. Francis — who regularly works the Costa Rica, Florida and Bahamas billfish circuit — says there have been innovations like the rubber O-ring for ease in bridling the hooks to the bait. He prefers a small barrel swivel though. “The O-rings impede the natural movement of the bait,” he explains.

When rigging combination baits such as a chugger or Ilander, he is more open. “With the Ilander, I position the bait with the hook crimped down tight to the lure. With a chugger-and-bait combination, I use one size larger hook. Instead of a 7/0, I’ll go with an 8/0 or 9/0 and add a swivel connected by copper wire with the bill going up into the chugger. It may be simple but it works great,” he explains.

Creating a streamlined circle-hook rig — with the maneuverability of a barrel swivel and ease of rigging with an O-ring — was the concept behind James Turner’s invention of the Ringer Swivel.

Article courtesy Marlin Magazine

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Visit FECOP in Person – Visit Us in Costa Rica to Sign Our Petition!

Help Stop Illegal Fishing in Costa Rica – Come out and Sign Our Petition!

Petition Signing Locations Now Available Across Costa Rica

Tuna For Ticos in San JoseForeigners living in San Jose with legal residency can now help STOP the Illegal fishing and the killing of sea turtles, billfish and marine mammals by signing our petition. Several local businesses in Coastal areas and the Captial City are offering physical locations to sign the Tuna4Ticos petition. Please have your cedula #id with you for the sigining. Every signature is important to protect Costas Rica’s valuble marine resources.

Learn more about our Tuna4Ticos Campaign Here

Sign the Petition Online Here

 

 

 

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San Jose

Calle 2 entre ave. 16 Y 18, 150
Metros Norte de la Estacion
de Trenes al Pacifico

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Video taken from a recent impact study by FECOP read more here

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Costa Rica Billfish

What is a Billfish?

Can I Catch Billfish in Costa Rica? What are Billfish?

Billfish can be found in Costa Rica year round, and peek in various months depending on whether or not you are in the North, Central or South Pacific Coast of Costa Rica. Please ask your fishing lodge, or captain the best months to find these species in Costa Rica. It is illegal to remove a billfish from the water in Costa Rica, but don’t worry you can still take your photo with one while leaving the billfish safely in the water for release. Read this article by Todd Staley about why not to take billfish out of the water and the proper way to catch and release them. The most common billfish anglers release in Costa Rica are Sailfish, Pacific blue marlin, black marlin and striped marlin.  Although other billfish such as swordfish and long billed spearfish can be found in Costa Rica, they are usually difficult to fish for due to the limited access to them. Read this article by Todd Staley on why Sailfish are worth more alive then dead to Costa Rica’s National and local economies.

The term billfish refers to a group of predatory fish characterised by prominent bills, or rostra, and by their large size; some are longer than 4 m (13 ft). Billfish include sailfish and marlin, which make up the family Istiophoridae, and swordfish, sole member of the family Xiphiidae. They are apex predators which feed on a wide variety of smaller fish, crustaceans, and cephalopods. These two families are sometimes classified as belonging to the order Istiophoriformes, a group with origins in the Late Cretaceous around 71 million years ago with the two families diverging from one and another in the Late Miocene around 15 million years ago.[3] However, they are also classified as being closely related to the mackerels and tuna within the suborder Scombroidei of the order Perciformes.[4] However, the 5th edition of the Fishes of the World does recognise the Istiophoriformes as a valid order, albeit including the Sphyraenidae, the barracudas.[5]

billfish graphic Billfish are pelagic and highly migratory. They are found in all oceans,[6] although they usually inhabit tropical and subtropical waters; swordfish are found in temperate waters, as well. Billfish use their long spears or sword-like upper beaks to slash at and stun prey during feeding. Their bills can also be used to spear prey, and have been known to spear boats (probably accidentally), but they are not normally used in that way. They are highly valued as gamefish by sports fishermen.

Billfish are exploited both as food and as fish. Marlin and sailfish are eaten in many parts of the world, and many sport fisheries target these species. Swordfish are subject to particularly intense fisheries pressures, and although their survival is not threatened worldwide, they are now comparatively rare in many places where once they were abundant. The istiophorid billfishes (marlin and spearfish) also suffer from intense fishing pressures. High mortality levels occur when they are caught incidentally by longline fisheries targeting other fish.[55] Overfishing continues to “push these declines further in some species”.[56] Because of these concerns about declining populations, sport fishermen and conservationists now work together to gather information on billfish stocks and implement programs such as catch and release, where fish are returned to the sea after they have been caught. However, the process of catching them can leave them too traumatised to recover.[36] Studies have shown that circle fishing hooks do much less damage to billfish than the traditional J-hooks, yet they are at just as effective for catching billfish. This is good for conservation, since it improves survival rates after release.[57][58]

The stocks for individual species in billfish longline fisheries can “boom and bust” in linked and compensatory ways. For example, the Atlantic catch of blue marlin declined in the 1960s. This was accompanied by an increase in sailfish catch. The sailfish catch then declined from the end of the 1970s to the end of the 1980s, compensated by an increase in swordfish catch. As a result, overall billfish catches remained fairly stable.[59]

Costa Rica billfish

“Many of the world’s fisheries operate in a data poor environment that precludes predictions about how different management actions will affect individual species and the ecosystem as a whole.”[60] In recently years pop-up satellite archival tags have been used to monitor billfish. The capability of these tags to recover useful data is improving, and their use should result in more accurate stock assessments.[61] In 2011, a group of researchers claimed they have, for the first time, standardized all available data about scombrids and billfishes so it is in a form suitable for assessing threats to these species. The synthesis shows that those species which combine a long life with a high economic value, such as the Atlantic blue marlin and the white marlin, are generally threatened. The combination puts such species in “double jeopardy”.[62]

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Sport Fishing Generates Nearly 500 Million Dollars Annually in Costa Rica

Sport fishing tourism generates nearly 500 million dollars a year in Costa Rica or almost 13% of total tourism revenue.

Published by AmPrensa.com

March 11, 2019 Ana Yancy Aguilar Featured, Nationals

The Costa Rican Sport Fishing Federation (FECOP) recently finalized a study that shows the social and economic contributions of  sport fishing in Costa Rica.

Photo By Pat Ford

This study includes an analysis of the impact of Sport Fishing activities in Costa Rica on both macroeconomic and local levels.  This new FECOP study developed in 2018 and early 2019, determined that Sport Fishing activities directly and indirectly generate around 500 million dollars a year to the country, and represent almost 13% of total tourism revenue

The data also indicates that Sport Fishing activities have grown, surpassing other eco activities in the tourism sector.

“The Sport Fishing segment of the Costa Rica tourism industry is a substantial part of the industry accounting for around 5.6% of total tourism or between 150,000 and 200,000 tourists that come Costa Rica to fish annually. These tourists also invest in the different communities where Costa Rica sport fishing is active thus benefiting the local area families and communities. ” explained Henry Marin, sociologist and author of the study. At a local level, data collected from areas such as Herradura, Quepos, Golfito, Puerto Jimenez, Flamingo, Playas del Coco and Tamarindo were analyzed. The complete study will soon be available for download on FECOP.org

For more information visit www.fecop.org

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Explaining The Costa Rica Tuna Decree

Costa Rica Fishing Conservation: Why is the Costa Rica Tuna Decree so Important?

There is nothing like enjoying a fresh yellowfin tuna sushi, sashimi, or even a big fat juicy fresh tuna steak when your arms are almost too tired to lift the chopsticks. Recreational anglers are catching more tuna than ever all along the Costa Rican Pacific seaboard. Fighting yellowfin tuna on rod and reel is like having your line attached to a freight train. The increased availability of tuna has been a saving grace for many a charter captain in the off season for billfish.
People are asking: Why so many tuna?

In 2012 FECOP (Federacion Costarricense de Pesca), a non-governmental group made up of different sport fishing associations around the country began researching the tuna purse industry in Costa Rican waters. Territorial waters are 11 times greater than Costa Rica’s terrestrial area. Costa Rica does not have any national flagged tuna vessels and purse licenses are sold to and operated by foreign flagged vessels in Costa Rican waters. FECOP approached then President of Costa Rica Laura Chinchilla explaining a problem existed and she advised them to submit a project supporting their claim.

“It is estimated 25 tons of what would have been marlin bycatch in purse sein operations were saved in Costa Rican waters in 2017 alone.”

FECOP then discovered that over the 2008-2011 period, 193 purse vessels operated in Costa Rican waters while INCOPESCA the governing body of fishing in Costa Rica reported only 81 licensed vessels sold for the same period. Apparently 114 or 58% of the vessels were operating illegally. Much of the tuna never made it to port in the country. Costa Rica benefited a mere $37 a ton for tuna stored.

Knowing the government would be slow to react to just a group of sport fishers’ complaints, FECOP held meetings with the longline fleet. After decades of throwing stones at each other the two groups decided to present the project to the government together. The longline fleet expressed if there were a steady supply of tuna available they would have no interest in sailfish which are a major bycatch problem in Costa Rica with non-selective types of fishing gear.

Yellowfin Tuna Costa Rica

 

 

President Chinchilla signed the “tuna decree,” as it is known near the end of her term and newly elected President Luis Guillermo Solis delayed the publication of the decree, but it eventually passed in October of 2014. The decree protects over 200,000 square kilometers of territorial water (44%) from purse sein operations, (see map). The most important area to recreational anglers is the first 45 miles from the coastline in which sein operations are now prohibited.

In March of 2017, using data supplied by FECOP’s Director of Science Moises Mug, INCOPESCA reduced tuna purse sein licenses sold to foreign fleets from 43 vessels down to 9 for the rest of the year. The government amended the agreement and sold 13 licenses. A new decree is waiting to be signed that would only permit 8 licenses permanently. It is estimated 25 tons of what would have been marlin bycatch in purse sein operations were saved in Costa Rican waters in 2017 alone.

According to agreements in the Tuna Decree there are a few provisions that have yet to be implemented. A management plan for the coastal and special polygons. Polygons A and D on map. An onboard observer program must be created for longline fleets, and a research program including horizontal and vertical migration using archival tags. The management workshops have already begun with sport and commercial fisherman, government agencies and NGO’s all participating.

INCOPESCA, INA the governmental technical institute that trains for many occupations including different types of fishing, and FECOP have all teamed up for a year- long “greenstick” and vertical line study which started with the first voyage in October. Greenstick is a method of fishing tuna with almost zero bycatch that is common in the Atlantic side of the United States but INCOPESCA requires technical support studies done in Costa Rica before they will give licenses for fish them here. With more tuna available and a growing demand for sustainably caught tuna on the International market with a higher value at the dock, hopes are one day a portion of the longline fleet will convert to greenstick fishing. This would decrease the amount of billfish bycatch.

Cuando pensé que todo estaba bien que estaba siendo feliz que al fin Dios me recompensaba, te me vas y me dejas sola, me dejas con un vacío profundo pero sobretodo con ganas de verte una última vez de besarte y decirte lo mucho que te amo me dejaste sola en este mundo que era para los dos!! Nunca pensé sentir un Dolor ni parecido parece que pensar que esto es una pesadilla es la mejor salida porqué simplemente no veo mis días sin esa sonrisa sin tus llamadas repentinas que cambian mis días sin tus msj que me hacían pensar que todo estaría bien no me imagino mi vida sin ti que eras el hombre de mi vida te amo y no se como seguir sin ti no sé cómo se supera este dolor!!

Si en otra vida te vuelvo a encontrar me aferrare a ti tan fuerte que nunca más te volveré a soltar!!!

bycatch tremendously.

FECOP was formed in 2008 by a small group of anglers who discovered 480,000 kilos of sailfish were being exported annually into the United States. Much of this was served in seafood restaurants as smoked seafood spread and people had no idea they were eating sailfish. FECOP convinced the government to stop the exportation of sailfish but it can still be sold on the National market as a low-cost supplement to the Costa Rican diet.


The first major conservation project FECOP tackled was the creation of the largest Marine Area of Responsible Fishing in Central America. Sport fishing is allowed and small scale artisanal fishing is permitted in the Golfo Dulce on the Osa Peninsula, but shrimp trawlers and gill nets are no longer allowed. A Golfo Dulce Commission was formed with representatives of all the users of the gulf as well as governmental agencies and NGO’s who meet monthly to manager the area.

FECOP has not existed without controversy. While the whole Costa Rican sport fishing community should have been celebrating the Tuna Decree when it passed, they were distracted by a campaign from The Billfish Foundation labeling FECOP as “quasi-green environmentalists” and a threat to sport fishing in Costa Rica. The controversy started when a FECOP member voiced his opinion at a public forum on regulating more the organized billfish tournaments in Costa Rica. TBF ran with it claiming it was FECOP’s stance to discredit the organization.
A blessing in disguise, the incident prompted FECOP to re-evaluate itself. The staff was reduced and Moises Mug, one of the most respected marine scientists in the country was hired full time. Today their agenda is quite simple. Promoting sport fishing in Costa Rica both recreationally and professionally with a focus on bycatch, research and communication. The staff is supported by a board of directors from both the recreational and professional fishing sector including sportsman and Hall of Fame baseball player Wade Boggs who is an avid fisherman and conservationist.

Continuous maintenance of the Tuna Decree will be needed in 2018 which Dr. Mug will oversee. Henry Marin will head up a socio-economic study concentrating on coastal communities individually, demonstrating the importance of sport fishing.

One study FECOP will be doing that will be especially exciting is Pacific Tarpon. Not indigenous to Pacific waters the numbers caught on the Pacific coastline has been increasing annually. It is suspected they have come through the Panama Canal and are breeding in Pacific waters. Fish will be captured, tagged, a tissue sample taken and then released. Genetics and feeding habits can be determined by a tissue sample. The study will be done in the southern zone where more fish have been taken, but tarpon have been caught up on the Nicoya Peninsula and one was caught recently as far north as El Salvador.

More information can be found about FECOP at www.fishcostarica.org

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Sailfish Hero Shot

Sailfish – The Evolution of The Hero Shot

Saifish -The evolution of the Hero Shot

Written for the Tico Times by Todd Staley February 28, 2019

A picture recently sent to Todd Staley showing people still taking hero shots. (Photo courtesy of Todd Staley)

Did you know the sailfish picture above is now illegal in Costa Rica?

Ten years ago a regulation made it illegal for the sport fishing sector to take a billfish, sailfish and marlin, out of the water for a “hero shot” photo of their prized catch.

The web is full of photos that could potentially bring a 2 million colones fine ($3,250) to the offender who pulls a billfish out of the water. To date, I don’t know of anyone who has ever been arrested or prosecuted on this. In fact, after all these years, many still claim they don’t know about the law.

Not everyone agrees with it either.

Many charter captains feel it diminishes their chance to attract new business. When potential clients see happy people holding big fish, they want to do it too. Many tourists are not aware of the law and crews, who rely on tips, don’t want to disappoint them.

It seems that some people have appointed me the billfish cop and when a hero shot shows up on social media, someone sends it to me. I usually send a message to the person who posted the picture, explaining the law. Sometimes I get a thank you note, sometimes I get responses I couldn’t possibly print here.

While hero shots are all over the internet, they’ve been around for decades. They started with old black-and-white photos of multiple fish nailed to a board at the dock or a huge hanging marlin.

An old black-and-white photos showing how anglers and charter captains bragged about their catch. (Photo courtesy of Sailfish Club)

That is how charter fleets attracted their next clients. That slowly evolved to a more catch and release attitude, but the need for the hero shot still existed to attract clients. Thousands of fish were dragged over the side of the boat and set in the angler’s lap for a photo.

Eventually, it was decided it was even better to leave the fish in the water.

People think a couple of minutes out of the water is not harmful to the animal, but any amount of time out of the water is bad for the fish. It stresses the fish and removes the protective slime by dragging it onboard, making them susceptible to life-threatening bacteria.

It’s still possible to get a good hero shot without taking the fish out of the water. First, whoever was taking the photo should know how to operate the camera. I’ve seen many wasted minutes while a tourist fumbles with a fish and a crewmember fumbles with a new camera.

A legal hero shot that’s also safer for the fish. (Photo courtesy of Todd Staley)

You can also give the client gloves so they can grab the fish by the bill. That way they can get a picture with a fish while it’s still in the water. The client can lean over with a big smile while someone snaps a few pictures. Then the fish can be safely released with minimum stress. This is more easily accomplished if the side of the boat is not very high off the water.

I think ego drives a person to get the photo with them up close and personal with a prized fish. I have certainly lifted my fair share of billfish out of the water, but after 10 years of not lifting one out, I have changed my mind.

New technology has given us something better than a hero shot.

Today almost everyone walks around with a high-resolution camera capable of video in their pocket. There are also Go-Pros or similar products that can be operated by remote or voice control. Clip one on to your canopy and you have a great view of the entire stern of the boat. Some of the best fishing videos and still pictures I have seen were taken from devices like the one we carry in our pockets.

I now personally think it is much more impactful to show your friends just how exciting these fish are to catch. An action video of your fish dancing across a cobalt sea is very impressive. It doesn’t have to be long, usually 15 to 30 seconds will tell the story. Try to get at least a few seconds of the angler on the rod or line screaming off the reel and your friends will think you are a pro.

So once again I remind anglers, in Costa Rica it is illegal to remove a billfish from the water by sport fishing enthusiasts. Commercial fishermen are allowed 15 percent incidental catch on sailfish.

Not everyone has the same opinion and Capt. Skip Smith, who is a world class captain and writer who now fishes in Quepos voiced his opinion on what is more harmful to billfish. You can read his article over at Marlin Magazine.


Todd Staley has run fishing sport operations on both coasts of Costa Rica for over 25 years. He recently decided to take some time off to devote full-time to marine conservation and is the communications director at FECOP. Contact him at wetline@hotmail.com.

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