Category: FECOP BLOG

Archie Fields

Costa Rica Legend Archie Fields

Remembering Costa Rica Fishing Legend Archie Fields

Printed for the Tico Times by Todd Staley

Archie Fields, a giant of a man, sat wearing a white guayabera shirt on the veranda overlooking the Río Colorado. Next to him were myself and two local women who worked at his hotel, the world-famous Río Colorado Lodge on Costa Rica’s northern Caribbean coast. The women jabbered away in Spanish and I didn’t understand a word they were saying. But I kept hearing over and over again the words “don Archie.” I remembered “The Godfather” movies from the ’70s and thought to myself, Holy crap! I’ve gone to work for the Mafia.
That was my first day of work for the late Archie Fields.

I have since learned to speak Spanish and that the word “don” is the equivalent of “mister,” a respectful title that has nothing to do with organized crime. Fields hailed from Tampa, Florida, and arrived in Costa Rica by way of the Bahamas, where he had set up a thriving tourist business but found it difficult to do business after the British gave up rule of the islands.

He then set up shop in Costa Rica and founded Swiss Travel, which today is one of the biggest travel agencies in the country. The landing of the first cruise ship in Costa Rica at the Caribbean port of Limón was organized by him. His Costa Rican Tourism Board license was No. 17.

In 1972, he bought a cabin in Barra del Colorado on the Caribbean coast and started the first boat tour down the Río San Juan and Tortuguero canals.

When he discovered what a great tarpon fishery the area offered, he added sportfishing. Cabin by cabin, he built the lodge until he had 19 rooms and created what has been called a “Rube Goldberg designed, Swiss Family Robinson type of fishing lodge.”

A history of celebrity and folklore infuses the lodge. Actor Lee Marvin and Minnesota Vikings coach Bud Grant used to fish there. Jimmy Buffett, in his book, “A Pirate Looks at Fifty,” describes Río Colorado as a place where overweight older guys who do not know much about fishing can get their picture taken with a large tarpon with relative ease and comfort. Novelist Randy Wayne White titled his “Batfishing in the Rainforest” after an experience at Río Colorado.

There are rumors that at one time a secret compartment below the lodge’s bar held a stash of guns that were secretly slipped upriver to Edén Pastora, “Comadante Cero,” and the Contras during the Nicaraguan Revolution. This was around the same time a Nicaraguan fighter plane blew up the fish house in Barra del Colorado because the pilot mistakenly thought he was over Greytown, Nicaragua.

Fields didn’t just come down here and grow wealthy. He gave back. The school system in Barra del Colorado went only up to the sixth grade in his day, so he sponsored many children who had to be fostered in Guápiles or San José to continue their education. Some have gone on to become doctors and business professionals.

He also led a campaign for conservation of Costa Rica’s marine resources. His secret to success was to “underpromise and overdeliver.” He never put really large fish in his brochures or advertising materials. He wanted all his guests to catch a bigger fish than they were expecting.

The current owner of Río Colorado Lodge, Dan Wise, was in Costa Rica celebrating his 40th birthday when he met Fields at a hotel in San José. Fields convinced him to go fishing at his lodge. Over the years, Wise became a regular visitor. When Fields fell ill with cancer, he thought it would be too taxing for his wife, Anita, to run the remote lodge, so he decided to sell the business.

Wise humorously describes how he ended up owning the famous Archie Fields’ Río Colorado Lodge: “The name Archie Fields in the tarpon fishing business is equivalent to Colonel Sanders in the fried chicken business. [Fields] was quite a salesman, as he sold me a termite-infested wooden hotel in a town with no road access or fire department and talked me into leaving the country of my birth, abandoning a good law practice and living in a totally different culture in a tropical paradise. Meeting this silver-headed old man by chance certainly was a life-changing experience for me to say the least.”

Speaking from experience, I can say that living and working in Barra del Colorado is the Costa Rican version of Herman Wouk’s “Don’t Stop the Carnival.” Archie Fields left a lifelong impression on many people. To this day I can’t remember the date of my own father’s death, but I remember the day the big fisherman in the sky took Fields: April 8, 1993. A lot of people miss you, don Archie.

Todd Staley is the fishing manager at Crocodile Bay Resort in Puerto Jiménez, on southwestern Costa Rica’s Osa Peninsula. Skippers, operators and anglers are invited to email fishing reports by Wednesday of each week to todd@crocodilebay.com. To post reports and photos on The Tico Times’ online fishing forum, go to www.ticotimes.net/Weekend/Fishing/Fishing-Forum.

http://fishcostarica.org/meet-costa-ricas-pacific-coast-snook-king/
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stop illegal fishing in Costa Rica

Panama Tells China No on Purse Seining

Panama Tells China: No Purse Seining in our Waters – Will Costa Rica Follow Suit

Stop Tuna Purse Sei

Published for Sport Fishing Magazine

The Panama government has announced that it will not authorize China or other countries to purse seine for tuna in its waters

Panama to China: No Purse Seining

Panama’s reputation as one of the world’s great destinations had been threatened by a proposed arrangement allowing Chinese purse-seine vessels to harvest tuna in the country’s waters.

Adrian E. Gray

The Fishing Authorities of Panama have announced a clarification about the signing of a protocol between Panama and to the People’s Republic of China regarding fishing in Panama. In a statement, the Autoridad de los Recursos Acuaticos de Panama reiterated that purse-seine fishing will not be allowed in Panama and is currently prohibited by existing guidelines and laws. The protocol does not alter or modify the current legislation that regulates the activity of fishing in Panama.

The ARAP release states that, based on current regulations, it will not authorize purse-seine vessels, whether for internal or external service, under national or foreign flag, to operate or develop tuna extraction activities with purse-seine nets in the jurisdictional waters of the Republic of Panama. ARAP explained that the capture of this resource with fishing gear known as purse seines, is prohibited by the provisions of Executive Decree No. 239 of 2010. Article 1.

We appreciate the clarification from ARAP regarding the protection of tuna and other species from harmful fishing methods like purse seine fishing. We are relieved and happy with the clarification. Knowing that the fishery in Panama will remain protected from harmful practices like purse seine fishing is important to us as a leader in sport-fishing conservation and fishery management.

Pressure from within Panama and across the worldwide sportfishing community resulted in ARAP’s formal statement that purse seine fishing is currently against the law in Panama and will remain so. We want to thank everybody who joined us in voicing their concerns about the China/ Panama protocol.

ARAP’s statement explains that tuna fishing is limited to the restrictions established by the Inter-American Tropical Tuna Commission (IATTC) and the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT), of which Panama is a Contracting Party and in general, by the international agreements signed and adopted and ratified by the Republic of Panama.

Located on the Pacific coast of the Darien jungle in Panama, Tropic Star Lodge as been providing fishing adventures for serious anglers for more than 55 years. Tropic Star Lodge is an Tropic Star Lodge strives to protect and conserve the treasured species found in the waters off Piñas Bay, Panama.

Ursula Marais is the general manager of Tropic Star Lodge at Piňas Bay, an industry leader in catch and release conservation and utilization of best fishing practices

You can help fight Illegal foreign Purse Seign Fishing in Costa Rica by signing the following petition

Your Voice is Important – Sign the Tuna for Ticos Petition

Dear representatives,

Presidency of the Republic,

Legislative Assembly Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock,

National Institute of Fisheries and Aquaculture,

Ministry of Environment and Energy,

Vice Ministry of Water and Seas,

National Coast Guard Service,

The situation of illegal fishing that is happening in our country is a serious problem that affects our marine resources, the national economy and that of our communities.

It is for this reason that through this petition we request better controls and effective surveillance for foreign tuna fleets.

Better penalization mechanisms for those who break the law of our country and exploit our resources indiscriminately.

As well as support and prioritization for national fleets in the consolidation of sustainable tuna fishing in our territorial waters.

I hereby support this cause by registering my information on the following petition.

Costa Rica’s Tuna Decree Is Saving Billfish & Dolphin

Can a Fish Bring a Country Together?

FECOP Featured On Channel 7 – Tuna for Ticos

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Costa Rica Fishing Roosterfish

Roosterfish Tournament Results

Inaugural PanAmerican Roosterfish Tournament Results

From BDOutdoors.com

Canada Takes Gold in Inaugural PanAmerican Roosterfish Tournament!

crocodile bay resort
Crocodile Bay Resort in Costa Rica is home to an awesome fishing fleet.

With all the excitement of a World Cup soccer match, 37 anglers from Canada, the United States, Mexico, Panama, and Costa Rica descended on the Golfo Dulce for the first PanAmerican Roosterfish Tournament. The event was hosted by the PanAmerican Delegation, USA Angling, and FECOP, the Costa Rican representative in the PanAmerican Delegation. The inaugural event was held at Crocodile Bay Resort in Puerto Jimenez, Costa Rica.

The format was Olympic style and the delegation’s purpose is to organize tournaments throughout the Americas. The organization hopes to add sport fishing to the PanAmerican Games, combine with European events and eventually be added as an eligible sport in the International Olympics.

roosterfish tournamentContestants who arrived early to pre-fish experienced great action. Jtodd Tucker, a professional bass fisherman from Georgia, took a rooster estimated at more than 50-pounds the day before. The bite was slightly off, at least by Costa Rican standards, once the actual competition started, however. With the catch and release format each fish scored one point for every inch of length measured from the tip of the head to the fork of the tail. This method was chosen because it is less stressful than weighing the fish and allowed for quicker releases back into the water.

roosterfish tournamentThe Canadian team took a commanding lead early in the two-day event with a total of 147.5 points. Team Mexico was second with 81 points. Day Two saw Mexico win the daily with 201 points, followed by Team USA with 178 points. But Team Canada’s second day tally of 125 points was enough to earn the Gold Medal with an overall total of 272.5 points. Mexico won the Silver Medal with 199 points, just edging out Team USA (198 points) which settled for Bronze.

roosterfish tournament

Two all-female teams (Costa Rica and USA) competed in this first-ever roosterfish event. Neither finished in the top standings yet both showed their male counterparts they are quite capable of competing on this level. The tournament also allowed all the teams to share conservation ideas that will benefit the fisheries in their respective nations.

“We were just a group of friends who thought it would be fun to enter a tournament,” explained Canadian angler Mike Haunton. “And we won! We have already joined the Costa Rican sport fishing and conservation group as well as the Canadian organization and haven’t even left Costa Rica yet.”

PanAmerican tournaments will be held in Canada, Mexico, Panama and again in Costa Rica in 2019. The September Costa Rican event will target tarpon.

For more information, contact: www.fishcostarica.org  or  info@fecop.org

 

 

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Local Fishing Spotlight – Osa’s Little Big Angler

Costa Rica Local Fisherman Profile – The Osa Peninsula’s Little Big Angler

Tosh Craig pictured below with Roosterfish

The Golfo Dulce was a big mirror of crimson as the morning fireball rises over the mountains of Panama and painted the sky like a beautiful canvas. The only sounds were the jungle behind Puntarenitas slowly coming awake, the soft slapping on the shoreline of gentle waves and the gurgling of a top-water popping lure being worked by an 13 year old boy. The serenity of this setting is cheerfully interrupted when a 25 lb roosterfish crashes the lure and it is game on.

Costa Rica Southern Zone fishing
Tosh Craig pulled in this big one from the shore line.

I grew up in a small fishing community in Florida very much like Puerto Jimenez. Miles of isolated beach and mangrove estuary was my playground. Monster snook and baby tarpon were just a cast away. Of course that was 100 years ago and today that stretch of beach is lined with condos. Never in my life, have I had anyone bring back so many childhood memories as when I sat down and had a conversation with (then) 11 year old Tosh Craig.

Costa Rica Southern Zone fishingTosh lives and breathes fishing. From the time he busted out of his walker as a baby, he has been fishing. It doesn’t hurt that his father Cory Craig of Tropic Fins is one of the most talented fishing guides in Costa Rica’s Osa Peninsula, but when dad is busy with customers, Tosh goes fishing. He is either on the beach casting the surf break alone or with his fishing buddy Anthony Araya, or you will find him on the public pier in town fishing with the other locals. Over time he has become proficient with handline, spinning, conventional, and fly fishing gear which means he is right at home fishing the style of the “locals,” or next to an adult tourist sporting a $1000 fly rod.

The check marks on his bucket list would impress even the most seasoned angler. Sailfish, dorado, tuna, a 40 pound rooster, 20 pound cubera snapper, and a 15 pound Colorado snapper taken on a handline. Next on the bucket list is a marlin. Of the array of species he has tackled, roosterfish is his favorite. Available from a boat or the shoreline, roosterfish are one of the most sought after inshore gamefish Costa Rica has to offer. Considered table fare for locals, Tosh chooses to release all the roosterfish he catches.

 

Tosh and Cory are often up before the sun on the beach casting. “My dad likes to fish for snook, but I would rather catch roosterfish,” explained Tosh. “They are stronger and fight better.” His favorite method is to use live bluerunners. He has to catch his own and uses a small white jig and if successful casts his live offering out beyond the surf. If live bait is not available he throws poppers on a handline. A slick surface is preferred and the best opportunity for that is early morning.

The fifth grader at Corcovado bilingual school also loves to surf and play guitar. Sounds like a recipe for future lady killer, so mom keep your eyes open. For now the most important thing to him is fishing. Doesn’t matter where or what kind of fish as long as it’s a challenge. His favorite place to fish is the beach in front of his house running to Puntarenitas. His long term goal is to be a fishing Captain like his father. “Really, I just fish whenever I can”. He smiled.

Written by Todd Staley for Coastal Angler Magazine

FECOP strongly encourages parents to get their kids fishing at an early age and teach them the importance of precious marine resources and responsible (sustainable fishing). To learn more about bring your kids on a fishing trip to Costa Rica read this article

Why Costa Rica is the Perfect Destination to Take the Kids Fishing

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More Costa Rica Fishing Features from FECOP

Young Biologist Studies Sailfish

Gray FishTag Recovers a Satellite Tag off the Coast in Costa Rica

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The Science of Offshore Fishing

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Win a 5 Night Costa Rica Fishing Trip for Two at Crocodile Bay Resort

Win a Dream Costa Rica Fishing Trip for Two at Crocodile Bay Resort – We’ll even outfit you with AFTCO apparel from “Head to Toe” worth $9,270

Enter Below for your chance to win a 5 night all inclusive Costa Rica fishing vacation on a 33′ Strike VIP Tower Boat with a full set of AFTCO gear from “Head to Toe”. See full package details below

Costa Rica Fishing Vacation and AFTCO Apparel Prize Details:

Wishin’ I was Fishin’ at Crocodile Bay in Costa Rica

November 24, 2017 thru April 1, 2019

Includes 3 day Tower Boat fishing package and 2 free days to explore one of the most biodiverse areas on the planet, at Crocodile Bay Resort in Costa Rica for 2 people (Total 5 nights at the resort). Plus AFTCO sport fishing apparel from “Head to Toe” for Two. Once you arrive at our front door, enjoy three full days of fishing offshore or inshore on our Tower Boat. Also includes luxurious air-conditioned accommodations, meals, and soft drinks at Crocodile Bay Resort.

Once you arrive at our front door, enjoy three full days of fishing offshore or inshore on our Tower Boat. Also includes luxurious air-conditioned accommodations, meals, and soft drinks at Crocodile Bay Resort.

Retail Value $9,270

 

Costa Rica Fishing

 

AFTCO “Head to Toe” Apparel Package Includes

 

 

 

 

 

 

Void After December 15, 2019 NO VALUE.

Package does not include international air transportation – Juan Santa Maria International airport in San Jose Costa Rica. (SJO), meals in San Jose, alcoholic beverages, or gratuities at the resort. Package also does not include domestic transfer pack. This transfer package may be purchased for $415 per person which consist of ground transfers, round trip *domestic airfare from San Jose, Costa Rica to Puerto Jimenez, and inbound night at a San Jose hotel. * Does not include overweight Costa Rica domestic airfare tickets.

Includes wine at dinner at the resort and cooler with beer when fishing. This trip may be taken April 1, 2019 – December 15, 2019 *

LEGAL RESTRICTIONS:

Other legal restrictions may apply in your country. Winner must be at least 18 years old and hold a passport issued by their country of residence and valid for at least 6 months following departure from this country. Package prize details may change at any time

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12 Facts About Goliath Grouper

12 Facts You Didn’t Know About the Goliath Grouper

From SportDiver.Com magazine

scuba diving Goliath grouper facts

Goliath grouper facts

Michael Patrick O’Neill

1. The goliath, Epinephelus itajara, is the largest grouper in the western hemisphere, and can reach 8 feet in length and more than 1,000 pounds.

2. A 4.6-foot-long female caught at a spawning aggregation contained 57 million eggs.

3. For a few weeks each year, spawning aggregations of up to 100 goliath grouper occur at specific times and locations.

goliath grouper in florida

Goliath grouper facts

Michael Patrick O’Neill

4. Individuals can travel 100 miles to spawn.

5. Small (under 4 feet, or five to six years old) goliath grouper live around mangroves; larger adults prefer coral reefs.

6. Forty percent of goliath grouper caught in Belize had mercury levels exceeding the U. S.-recommended levels for human consumption.

goliath grouper facts

Goliath grouper facts

Michael Patrick O’Neill

7. These adaptable fish can live in brackish water and tolerate low oxygen levels.

8. Goliath grouper can have a lifespan of up to 37 years.

9. A goliath grouper’s age can be estimated using annual growth rings in its dorsal fin rays, much like those found within tree trunks.

goliath grouper yawn

Goliath grouper facts

Michael Patrick O’Neill

3 of 4

10. Goliath grouper were removed from the NOAA Species of Concern list in 2006 but remain a “no take” species in the United States.

11. The World Conservation Union’s Red List listed the species as critically endangered in 1994. Survival is threatened by overfishing and loss of the inshore mangrove habitat required by juveniles.

goliath grouper florida

Goliath grouper facts

12. Despite having teeth, goliath grouper engulf and swallow prey whole.

Courtesy SportDiver.Com

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The Monster Fish That Made Me a Conservationist

The Fish That Turned Me Into a Conservationist
By Todd Staley – Communications Director

A long, long time ago when I was in my early twenties I lived on the west coast of Florida and fished every minute I could. Blue water action was not much of an option.

A 30 mile trip offshore only got you to 90 feet of water, but there were plenty of snook, tarpon and grouper to keep a young man off the streets and out of serious trouble. Around the same time a group of County Commissioners came up with an artificial reef program that was either an extremely misguided effort or a well disguised plan to rid the counties landfills of it’s surplus of old cars, tires, and concrete culverts.

What seemed like an excellent plan for some turned out to be a disaster. It didn’t take long to discover that the lifespan of an old Chevy rusting in the Gulf of Mexico isn’t very long and that hurricanes and tropical storms can separate and scatter well tied together tires for miles across the sea bottom.

For a short time though, they seemed to function as designed. Barnacles started to grow on the junk pile. Baitfish found the structure and moved in. Pelagic fish would stop and feed during their migration routes and snapper and grouper began to call these reefs home.

The exact position of each of these artificial reefs were published in a big publicity push and anyone with navigational device on their boat could easily find them because they were marked with buoys as well. Both fishermen and divers alike began using these reefs regularly. The closet was only 3 miles off the beach and the farthest was only 20 miles out.

Most anglers would camp right over the top of them and have a field day reeling in grunts but every time they hooked a decent fish like a grouper they quickly lost it to the jagged terrain below.

Goliath Grouper Artificial Reef

We were smarter than that, we fished with grenades. Not literally of course, but that’s what we called them.

“We would mix sand with cat food and shape them into balls with a rock in the middle so they would sink fast.”

Then we would anchor up current of the structure and drop our grenades to the bottom. Our concoction had a sweet enough smell to draw decent fish away from the cover of the reef. Remember this was long before conservation was in fashion and if you caught more than you could use you could always give it to friends or sell it at the backdoor of a seafood restaurant for some extra beer money. One day our grenade technique was extremely effective. We had a cooler full of 8 to 10 lb grouper and lots of 5 lb mangrove snapper.

Then the monster took my bait and nearly yanked my rod out of my hands. It didn’t take off with burning speed, it was more like being on the losing end of a tug-of-war as line slowly peeled off my reel and there was nothing I could do about it. Then it stopped. I knew it had taken enough line to bury itself well into the reef and I could feel every breath it took as water rushing through its gills vibrated up my line. Then I got an idea.

Earlier I noticed a boat with a dive flag up on the other end of the reef so I raised the observer on the radio and explained I had a giant fish on my line and they would cover over and “shoot the thing,” I would split it with them. He said when the divers surfaced he would ask them. Soon a dive boat was tied up alongside us and a diver was preparing to descend with a triple banded spear gun unlike anything I had seen before. He disappeared below the surface following my line towards the bottom. Twenty minutes passed and nothing. Finally after thirty minutes he surfaced and his eyes were as big as saucers. “ You’re not kidding you’ve got a monster,” he exclaimed. “You have a 400 lb Goliath grouper,” (actually we called them by a different name back them, one that had been used over a hundred years, but the name was changed to Goliath grouper a few years back in the spirit of political correctness) “The stupid fish has swam inside a 61’ Mercury Monterey!” he went on to explain. “ Well just plug him between the eyes,” I said, “ and we will drag him out with the boat.” “What the heck you think I’ve been trying to do for the last half hour,” he answered. “Every time I get close to him he rolls the window up!”

Note: This was the day I learned that a fish was not only something to be used as sport and food, but that every fish has it’s own personality and is something to be used but not abused. It was that day I started thinking about tomorrow and not just living for today. It was that day I became a conservationist.

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Costa Rica Billfish

Having a Successful Costa Rica Fishing Trip

Getting The Most Out of Your Costa Rica Fishing Trip

Thinking about sport fishing in Costa Rica?

Costa Rica is known for some of the best billfishing (sailfish and marlin) in the world. Trolling for sailfish or marlin has a hypnotic effect on one. Staring at six or more brightly colored teasers skipping across an indigo ocean for any period of time almost puts you in a trance. The following tips should help you get the most out of your Costa Rica fishing trip.

That trance is quickly interrupted when a swordsman lit up in a purple hue snaps you back to reality and charges up from the deep, slashing at the teasers. Knowing what to expect before this happens can mean the difference between a missed fish or a date with a ballerina on a cobalt blue dance floor. Be prepared for your fishing trip.

Keys to Success on Your Costa Rica Fishing Trip

If you booked through a travel agent ask for the phone number or e-mail of the  operator, or even the captain and talk to them. Ask what kind of boat you will be on, what type of equipment they use, what methods they use and if it is important to you, what level of English do their crews speak.

Once onboard talk with the crew and ask questions. Talk about your own level of experience. Leave your ego in your suitcase. If your home is full of trophies from fishing tournaments,  but you have never fished sailfish or marlin, let your crew know. Most crews will give you as much or as little help as you want, but you have to communicate that to them.

 

 

Communication during your Costa Rica fishing trip is VERY important

Almost all captains in Costa Rica use a “bait and switch” method of trolling for billfish. The fish pops up in the teasers and the mate reels in the teaser with the fish in hot pursuit. As the fish moves in closer to the boat, the angler pitches a bait in the water and drops it back to the fish. The teaser is than jerked from the water leaving the bait as the only option for the fish to grab a quick meal. The same method applies to fly fisherman – and if you haven’t tried billfish on a fly your literally missing the boat.

You are required by law to use circle hooks in Costa Rica when fishing with live or dead bait. The design allows the hook to set itself without jerking the rod. Actually they are a very effective method of hooking fish while causing the least amount of damage to the fish for a safe release.

Circle hooks are not something new. They have been found made from seashells in the burial grounds of pre Columbian Indians as well as in Pacific coast Native American burial grounds. The Japanese made them long ago out of reindeer horns.

They are really quite easy to use if you plant this in your brain. Crank…Don’t Yank!!!   If you are not familiar with circle hooks ask your crew to explain them before fishing.

Communication, both before and during your trip is the key to having a great Costa Rican fishing adventure.  It’s your turn on the dance floor.

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Can a Fish Bring a Country Together?

Three Billboards Outside San José, Costa Rica: Can fish bring a country together?

By Todd Staley for the Tico Times November 14, 2018

A tuna-fishing boat launching speed boats. (Courtesy FECOP)

If you are driving from Juan Santamaría International Airport toward San José, you will pass two sets of billboards. Lettered in Spanish, the signs translate to English as:

  1. There are foreign boats fishing illegally in Costa Rica
  2. They are taking our marine resources without permits
  3. Together we can change this… Find out how at fecop.org

[Editor’s note: The author of this story works as the communications director for FECOP, the Costa Rican Fishing Federation.]

The campaign billboards were modeled after the ones in the award-winning film “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri.” The signs were designed to be simple but effective. It is estimated that more than 25 percent of all tuna fished by foreign purse seine boats in Costa Rican territorial waters goes unreported or is taken by vessels not licensed to fish in Costa Rica — resulting in zero benefit to the country.

In an interview on Monumental Radio, Carlos Manuel Rodríguez, Minister of Environment and Energy, denounced that the country loses millions of dollars in the illegal fishing of tuna. Thanks to the international licenses that the country provides for tuna fishing, this sector generates legal profits of $50 million and pays only $1.3 million for it. He went on to say if more tuna were available to Costa Rica fishermen, they would target tuna rather than engaging in controversial shark fishing.

Data collected by Amigos de la Isla del Coco Foundation (FAICO) during a study called “Characterization and analysis of industrial fishing pressure in the ACMC and the adjacent Exclusive Economic Zone” found that fishing vessels entered the prohibited areas for purse seining more than 130 times during the span of the study.

An analysis by Conservation International and the Coast Guard using satellite technology determined more than 100 vessels were involved in illicit activities in 2016-17.

The yearly average legal take from these boats had been around 25,000 tons of tuna. Of this, 9,000 tons goes to the cannery in Puntarenas and most of the rest never lands in Costa Rica. A study done by Federacion Costarricense de Pesca in 2013 showed Costa Rica only benefitted $37 a ton from tuna taken by foreign vessels. This brought about the first tuna reform in 2014, which moved the tuna boats offshore 45 miles and protected other important areas like the waters around Coco Island and a total of 200,000 square kilometers from purse seine fishing. In 2017, INCOPESCA, the governing board of fishing regulations in Costa Rica, reduced the number of legal licenses from 43 to 13 and this year put limits on the capture. But with very little oversight, illegal fishing activity is bound to increase.

To better understand all this one needs to understand all the pieces of the puzzle. Not all of them see eye-to-eye on many issues. Since this campaign was started by FECOP, we start first with:

Sport fishing

Sport fishing generates nearly $380 million for the Costa Rican economy and generates thousands of jobs for Costa Ricans. FECOP — which advocates for sport fishing as a sustainable business model as well as ocean management — represents many of them. A study recently conducted by Henry Marín, project manager for FECOP, showed that in a social-economic quality of life model study, Costa Ricans who work in sport fishing earned more than the average Costa Rican. Those who work in areas like Herradura and Quepos, where there has been a substantial investment in sport fishing infrastructure, have even higher incomes. There are also a good number of non-anglers who believe sport fishing is a senseless sport, where people torture animals for sport.

Commercial fishing

A tuna fishing vessel circles dolphins off the Osa Peninsula, on Costa Rica’s southern Pacific coast. Shawn Larkin/The Tico Times

This is another very important part of the Costa Rican economy that employs thousands in coastal communities. Costa Ricans consume a lot of fish and almost all the millions of tourists that come here each year want to experience fresh Costa Rican seafood. The exportation of fish products is also huge. Opponents complain about non-selective arts of fishing with a high incidental catch of non-targeted or over-exploited species.

Tuna purse seine fleet

Costa Rica does not have a purse seine vessel. The fleet consists of licenses sold to foreign-owned companies that capture tuna by circling a school with a net when closed captures everything inside. Opponents claim the bycatch — species caught other than tuna — include marlin, sailfish, dorado, wahoo, sharks, turtles and marine mammals. More than 50 different species have been documented as bycatch in the tuna fleet. By examining previous catch records, it is estimated the fleet reduction saved 25 tons of would have been marlin bycatch in 2017.

Cannery

The tuna cannery in Puntarenas is a major player in the local community. It employs well over 1,000 Costa Ricans and requires 9,000 tons of tuna annually to operate. Because the demand of sustainably caught “one by one” tuna is growing so fast, the cannery is forced to import pole- and line-caught fish from other countries to fill their orders.

Government

The government, including INCOPESCA, the Ministry of Agriculture, the Ministry of the Environment, the Coast Guard, the Ministry of Tourism, and the Legislative Assembly all have input in the fishing licenses, controls and enforcement. Some have been accused of favoring one sector over another or business over environment, or that they don’t have the budget to operate more efficiently.

NGOs

There are many non-governmental nonprofits headquartered in Costa Rica that specialize in marine conservation issues. Many have done great things in Costa Rica. At times, conservation is a competitive business. Organizations compete for donor contributions. Because of this, they don’t communicate well with each other. Many times, they are working on similar projects but for fear of losing donations or credit for successes — which turn into more donations — they don’t share information. If they did a little more, positive changes could come more rapidly on smaller budgets.

General public

Costa Rica is the most expensive country to live in in Central America. Many sectors have been on strike or protesting the proposed tax reforms since September 10. They are especially displeased with some tax breaks companies receive whose products manufactured in Costa Rica cost nearly double in Costa Rica as the same product sold by the same company in neighboring countries. Many feel it is unfair to give away Costa Rica’s resources to other countries with little benefit to the country while they are asked to pay higher taxes.

Tuna

Tuna are the most prized fish on the commercial market and have a much higher market value than other species. Many people do not know how most of the tuna captured in Costa Rica are caught. A large purse seine vessel cruises the ocean looking for obvious signs that tuna is present. This could be feeding birds, tuna feeding, giant pods of dolphins, or floating objects like tree trunks. Often these boats will place artificial floating objects, which are illegal to use in Costa Rica because they attract juvenile fish.

Dolphins

A lot of the tuna caught here are caught under dolphins. Dolphins and tuna have a symbiotic relationship and swim together — the dolphin on the surface and tuna below. They will use speed boats to corral the dolphins into the net. If you net the dolphin, you will also catch the tuna. In the past, up to 6 million dolphins perished in tuna boat nets until there was a public outcry.

Today boats fishing legally will lower one end of the net to release the dolphin. According to data, the mortality of dolphin is now around 1,000 annually using this method, but Sierra Goodman, founder and president of the Vida Marina Foundation in Drake Bay, on the northern Pacific side of the Osa Peninsula, believes the actual number of dolphin mortality is highly underreported. Goodman’s concern is that tuna companies that fish and net dolphins are labeling their product dolphin safe.

Stop Illegal Fishing in Costa Rica

“Ok, so this is my question: Are the dolphins still chased and encircled in the nets to get the tuna?” she asked. “Are dolphins involved in any way for tuna that is labeled dolphin-safe? Because any time free and wild dolphins are chased and entrapped, it is not dolphin-safe. I saw what happens in those nets. While I’m sure the lowering of nets helps with mortality, what about stress factors? We know that these tuna boats are out there for days in a row netting the same group of Costa Rican spinner dolphins.”

One question is whether the boats fishing illegally careful with dolphins. They have been witnessed throwing explosives from helicopters or speed boats to herd dolphin. And do they take the time to make sure the dolphin is released from the net carefully? I have never known a thief who sweeps up the glass after he has broken your window to enter your house.

Green Stick and pole & line

Green Stick is the common name for a piece of fishing equipment that was originally made from a long, green bamboo shoot that has a main line attached to a device that is designed to make a large splash on the water. It is trolled a couple hundred yards or more behind the fishing vessel. Off the main line, a half dozen or more lures are placed at intervals. This method has a 99 percent catch rate of tuna compared to catching species other than the targeted tuna.

Pole and line is basically done by chumming the water with live minnows to keep the tuna close in a feeding frenzy and catching them one a time, helping meet the growing demand for sustainably caught seafood — seafood caught without impacting the environment or other species. Green Sticks now made of fiberglass are nothing new. They have been used in Japan and in the Eastern United States for years. Innovating commercial fishermen like Robert Nunes has been using them some success in Costa Rican waters. After FECOP supplied the technical support to the government, INCOPESCA began issuing licenses to fish green sticks this year.

 

Adam Baske, Director of the Pole and Line Foundation based in the United Kingdom, recently visited Costa Rica and with FECOP staff met with long-line commercial fishermen in Puntarenas and Quepos to discuss the tuna industry and the market need for sustainably caught tuna. They heard the same from both groups. They explained that even though the sport fishermen are seeing a great increase in tuna catches since the Tuna Decree in 2014, there is still too much tuna being taken illegally or licensed to foreign vessels for them to successfully fish more selective gear and make a decent profit.

According to them, they would love it if they could. Tuna is a premium-value fish and would become the target species, taking pressure off sharks and billfish as bycatch in longline fishing. The incidental catch rate of other species would drop drastically. FECOP then met with six marine related NGOs to discuss the issue.

This writer has lived in Costa Rica worked in fishing going on 28 years and is a naturalized Costa Rican citizen. His wife is Tica, his kids are Tico and at many times feels as if he is at heart a Tico trapped in the body of a gringo. He has been here long enough to know if just one sector lobbies for change, nothing happens. When different sector joins on a common goal, change happens. The first tuna reform in 2014 is a good example of sport fisherman working together with longline fishermen. Giving tuna back to the Ticos would have a domino effect for all groups. Better income for struggling coastal communities, less bycatch of billfish, sharks, turtles, dolphin and other marine mammals. With more tuna available, the longliners could see the advantage of switching gear because the fish would be available to them and NGO’s protecting sharks, turtles and billfish would all benefit also.

It is not an easy task, but working together, it can be done. There is a petition to the government at www.fecop.org. The site is in English and Spanish; just click your preference.

Make An Impact – Sign Our “Tuna for Ticos” Petition to Stop Illegal Fishing in Costa Rica

Dear representatives,

Presidency of the Republic,

Legislative Assembly Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock,

National Institute of Fisheries and Aquaculture,

Ministry of Environment and Energy,

Vice Ministry of Water and Seas,

National Coast Guard Service,

The situation of illegal fishing that is happening in our country is a serious problem that affects our marine resources, the national economy and that of our communities.

It is for this reason that through this petition we request better controls and effective surveillance for foreign tuna fleets.

Better penalization mechanisms for those who break the law of our country and exploit our resources indiscriminately.

As well as support and prioritization for national fleets in the consolidation of sustainable tuna fishing in our territorial waters.

I hereby support this cause by registering my information on the following petition.

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Three Billboards Warn of Illegal Fishing in Costa Rica

Three Billboards Outside San José, Costa Rica: Can a fish bring a country together

Published by Sport Fishing Magazine Online Edition

 

 

Billboards Warn of Illegal Fishing in Costa Rica

These billboards, modeled after the movie Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, now appear prominently along the highway connecting Costa Rica’s capital, San Jose, with the international airport. The first says, “There are foreign boats fishing illegally in Costa Rica.”

If you are driving from the airport towards San Jose, the capital of Costa Rica, you will pass two simple sets of three billboards each. Lettered in Spanish the signs basically translate into English as:

1. There are foreign boats fishing illegally in Costa Rica
2. They are taking our marine resources without permits
3. Together we can change this… Find out how at fecop.org

The campaign billboards were modeled after the ones depicted in the award-winning film “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri.” Designed to be a simple yet effective message, it is estimated that more than 25 percent of all tuna taken by foreign purse seine boats in Costa Rican territorial waters goes unreported or is harvested by vessels not licensed to fish in Costa Rica with zero benefit to the country.

tuna for ticos

Carlos Manuel Rodríguez, Minister of Environment and Energy, says that the country loses mil-lions of dollars in the illegal fishing of tuna. According to the minister, of the total $50 million generated by the sale of licenses to foreign purse seiners, the country only receives $1.3 million. An estimated $12 million more is un-documented. Through an analysis done by Conservation International and the Coast Guard using satellite technology, it was determined more than 100 vessels in 2016-2017 were involved in illicit activities.

Stop Illegal Fishing in Costa Rica

The yearly average legal take from these boats had been around 25,000 tons of tuna a year. Of this 9,000 tons goes to the cannery in Puntarenas and most of the rest never lands in Costa Rica. A study done by Federacion Costarricense de Pesca (FECOP) in 2013 showed Costa Rica only earned $37 a ton from tuna taken by foreign vessels. This triggered the first tuna reform legislation in 2014, which moved the tuna fleet 45 miles offshore and protected other important areas like the waters around Coco Island and a total of 200,000 square kilometers from purse seine fishing. In 2017 INCOPESCA, the governing board of fishing regulations in Costa Rica, reduced the number of legal licenses from 43 down to 13 and this year put limits on the overall harvest. The problem is with very little enforcement and control, the illegal fishing activity is bound to increase. The initial tuna harvest rules were enacted after sport and commercial fishermen set aside their differences and worked together to accomplish shared goals.

FECOP staff recently met with commercial longliners in Puntarenas and Quepos to discuss the tuna industry and the market need for sustainably caught tuna. Sport fishermen are seeing noticeable increases in tuna catches in the protected 45-mile zone since the Tuna Decree went into effect in 2014. The amount of tuna being taken illegally or by foreign vessels remains a deterrent for li-censed local commercial fishermen to switch to more selective gear like “green sticks,” or pole and line which have nearly zero bycatch and still make a reasonable profit.

The longliners are receptive to using sustainable gear if it’s economically feasible. Tuna is a premium value species and if they were targeted selectively, it would take pressure off sharks and bill-fish as bycatch in longline fishery. The incidental catch rate of other species would drop drastically.

FECOP also met with several marine-related non-government organizations to discuss the issue of sustainable fishing.

Billboards Warn of Illegal Fishing in Costa Rica

More than 25 percent of all tuna taken by foreign purse-seine boats in Costa Rica waters goes unreported, with zero benefit to the country.

Tourist Sport Fishing
The recreational sport-fishing industry generates $380 million or more for the Costa Rican economy annually and supports thousands of jobs for locals. Critics claim sport fishing is a senseless sport and a form of cruelty to animals.

Commercial Fishing
Commercial harvest is also a multi-million dollar industry and the life blood of coastal communities. Critics claim the high rate of bycatch in certain types of fisheries is unsustainable and damages the environment.

NGOs
There are many non-governmental non-profits headquartered in Costa Rica that specialize in marine conservation issues. Many have an accomplished track record. But conservation is a competitive business as organizations compete for limited donor contributions. Because of this, communication between the groups is often lacking. Many times groups are working on similar projects but don’t share information for fear of losing donations or credit for successes (which is parlayed into more donations). If communication among the groups was more common, positive changes could come more rapidly on smaller budgets.

General Public
Costa Rica has the highest cost of living in Central America. Many sectors have been on strike or protesting the proposed new tax reform for the past month. Critics are upset with tax breaks companies receive whose products manufactured in Costa Rica cost nearly double domestically as the same product sold by the same company in neighboring countries. Many feel it is unfair to give away Costa Rica’s resources to other nations with little benefit while its citizens are asked to pay higher taxes.

Billboards Warn of Illegal Fishing in Costa Rica

Many marine mammals are killed as bycatch in these illegal fisheries.

Tuna Canning Industry
The tuna cannery in Puntarenas employs more than 1,000 local workers and processes 9,000 tons of tuna annually. Because of the high demand of sustainably captured seafood products, the cannery is forced to import tuna harvested with sustainable gear from other countries to meet the demand.

Tuna and Dolphin
The fish and the mammals have a symbiotic relationship and swim together in the ocean. Most nets set by purse seiners are made over dolphins on the surface. Historically over 6 million dolphins perished with this method. By today’s standards, after the set one end of the net is lowered for the dolphins to escape to qualify for the “Dolphin Safe” label. The estimate of dolphin mortality is still around 1,000 a year in the tuna industry. Critics say the repeated netting of the same pods of dolphins should not qualify for the dolphin safe sticker on cans of tuna.

Critics also question whether boats fishing illegally are careful about dolphin welfare. Boats have been observed throwing explosives from helicopters or speed boats to herd the dolphin into the nets. There are also questions about how carefully the dolphins are released.

The goal is to bring all these various interest groups together to make more tuna available to benefit Costa Rican fishermen and the country’s economy. An increase in sustainable harvest would have a domino effect. With more tuna available there would be less bycatch of sharks, billfish, turtles and marine mammals, plus better economic conditions for struggling coastal communities.

The billboard campaign directs viewers to the FECOP website, www.fecop.org. A link on the site leads to a petition urging decision-makers to support more responsible ocean management and fair-ness for the people of Costa Rica.

Help FECOP Make an Impact – Sign the Tuna for Ticos Petition Below

Dear representatives,

Presidency of the Republic,

Legislative Assembly Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock,

National Institute of Fisheries and Aquaculture,

Ministry of Environment and Energy,

Vice Ministry of Water and Seas,

National Coast Guard Service,

The situation of illegal fishing that is happening in our country is a serious problem that affects our marine resources, the national economy and that of our communities.

It is for this reason that through this petition we request better controls and effective surveillance for foreign tuna fleets.

Better penalization mechanisms for those who break the law of our country and exploit our resources indiscriminately.

As well as support and prioritization for national fleets in the consolidation of sustainable tuna fishing in our territorial waters.

I hereby support this cause by registering my information on the following petition.

 

FECOP Featured On Channel 7 – Tuna for Ticos

 

 

 

 

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