Category: FECOP News

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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 Marlin Fishing

Blue Marlin Biology

Blue Marlin, unlocking the evolutionary secrets of an apex predator.

Most of us are somewhere between infatuated and obsessed with blue marlin, but unless you’re a billfish scientist, you probably don’t understand how these lightning-fast finely honed eating machines are able to swim thousands of miles, populate the vast tropical and subtropical oceans of the entire world, and detect and chase down the fastest, most elusive prey species — and to have done it successfully for literally millions of years. The short answer is incredibly engineered anatomy and physiology.

While all top-level fish hunters realize that detailed knowledge about one’s quarry is the key to finding it, getting the bites and converting them into captures, most lack exposure to many of the cutting-edge scientific advances that can give them an edge. I recently reviewed these during the course of writing a chapter about blue marlin biology and ecology for Capt. Steve Campbell’s outstanding book, Blue Marlin Magic. I was fortunate to interview and work with a number of the top scientists in the field, and the information they graciously shared blew me away.

Blue Marlin Biology

The moment of truth, as a blue marlin is released at the boat. These fish have evolved over millions of years to become one of the ocean’s apex predators.

Austin Coit

The Billfish Evolutionary Tree
Professor John Graves, of Virginia Institute of Marine Science, shared with me results of DNA and morphological analyses he conducted with colleagues. Some of the billfish evolutionary tree we would all have guessed correctly — such as white and striped marlin being closely related, as are the four species of spearfishes. All billfish — marlin, spearfishes and sailfish — belong to the family Istiophoridae, with broadbill swordfish the sole species of the offshoot family Xiphiidae. Now, which billfish species would you guess is the closest genetic relative of blue marlin? I’d have guessed black marlin, but the correct answer is actually sailfish.

My next surprise came in reviewing just how long blues have been around. The branch of the billfish evolutionary tree we know as a blue marlin was sufficiently perfect that they are the most common billfish identified in fossil records dating to the late Miocene epoch. This means they were dominating their environment, worldwide, more than 12 million years ago. Sea levels were much higher than they are today. These fossils have been found scattered in locations as varied as Italy, Virginia, North Carolina, California and Mexico. To put this in perspective, we hadn’t even evolved yet — the closest things to humans roaming the earth were some humanoid apes. So the next time you feel humbled by a lit-up blue crashing your spread, you have every reason to be: They’ve been around for a very long time.

Blue Marlin Biology

The gills of a blue marlin provide oxygen utilizing ram-jet ventilation. It is an incredibly efficient system for long-term endurance as well as for short, speedy bursts.

Will Drost

Satellite Tagging and Open-Ocean Behavior
Research scientist Michael Musyl provided a fascinating look at the incredible capabilities we are learning about blue marlin through pop-up satellite archival tags. Everything these creatures do is finely tuned, and the more we understand, the better we can adapt our techniques to encounter them more often. The continuous data produced by tagged individuals tells us their position, depth and ambient water temperature over considerable periods of time. Interestingly, some of this data only serves to confirm what far-flung artisanal fishermen independently figured out a long time ago. By the time Ernest Hemingway wrote The Old Man and the Sea, he was aware that the old Cuban hand-liners would set their baits deep — 300 to 800 feet — and catch blue marlin as well as big yellowfin and bigeye tuna. Meanwhile, Polynesian hand-liners were doing exactly the same thing, using rounded volcanic stones and a special slipknot to sink flying fish and other baits, in which a sharp tug on the line releases the weight. Modern-day swordfish and tuna longliners catch large numbers of blues by fishing dead natural baits much deeper than sport anglers. PSAT results tell us why, and suggest options for thinking outside the box.

Blue Marlin Biology

[A] Eyes: Proportionate to their body size, blue marlin have the largest eyes of any billfish species, comparable to the eyes of a swordfish. Blue marlin also have the ability to heat their eyes using special cells, further increasing their visual acuity even in low-light conditions. [B] Bill: Thought to decrease hydrodynamic drag as well as provide improved feeding capability by stunning its prey, a marlin’s bill is covered with millions of rough denticles. [C] Inner Ear: A blue marlin’s tiny ear bones, or otoliths, can detect sound from long ranges and in a variety of wavelengths. Marlin have exceptional hearing. [D] Lateral Line: The fish’s lateral line uses sensory hair cells to trigger nerve responses and function as hydrodynamic receptors of low-frequency wavelengths emitted within two body lengths of the marlin. This allows them to sense prey and predators at close ranges, even in near-total darkness. [E] Gills: Blue marlin use ram-jet ventilation, pushing seawater past millions of tiny leaflike structures stacked along each gill filament to maximize oxygen extraction. The efficiency of this arrangement is unequalled in the animal kingdom. [F] Jaw: A predentary bone joins the tips of the two lower jawbones, allowing the jaws to open much wider than usually possible without coming apart. This allows blue marlin to consume very large prey, weighing as much as 10 percent of the marlin’s own body weight. [G] Dorsal, Pectoral and Pelvic Fins: With grooves and depressions along the fish’s body, a blue marlin can completely retract these fins for a more streamlined shape as needed. When extended, they give the fish incredible maneuverability. [H] Brain: A huge optic center processes information from the eyes, giving blue marlin excellent vision. They essentially see in black and white as they look down, but in shades of color as they look up toward the ocean’s surface. [I] Tail: A blue marlin’s extended tail lobes can reach water that is undisturbed by the passage of the fish’s body, making them extremely efficient swimmers.

Craig Smith

We now know that blue marlin spend much of their time easing along at 1 to 3 knots in warm, turbulence-mixed water above the thermocline, within a temperature range of 72 to 88 degrees, preferring a range between 75 and 81 degrees. However, during the daytime, they exhibit what Musyl calls a “W-pattern,” frequently diving to depths between 500 and 650 feet, and sometimes as deep as 2,600 feet. Stomach-content analyses show these fish are feeding on squid and deep­water fishes (“stuffing themselves” might be a better description), then surfacing to repay oxygen debts and warm up their muscles. Are island hand-liners and industrial longliners catching blues that are on their way down or perhaps swimming back up from these dives? Are there times and locations where large numbers of blue marlin are present but mostly feeding down near the thermocline? Would sport-fishing operations be far more effective drifting deep baits or presenting something completely different and yet-to-be-designed in the deep, such as large, scented soft plastics? Sometimes research raises more questions than it answers.

Recently, I was offshore of Islamorada, Florida Keys, out near the continental shelf drop-off, aboard my 20-foot SeaCraft. The sea was mirror-calm, and I spotted the dorsal and tapered tail lobe of a 250-pound-or-so blue marlin, motionless and flushed nearly black. We eased over and swam a schoolie mahimahi in front of the fish, which slowly sank out of sight in response. We circled, dropped live and dead baits: nothing. I wonder if it had just surfaced from a deep, cold dive, stuffed with prey, muscles oxygen-deprived, chilled to the bone, just trying to soak in some warm sun. I could almost hear the marlin say, “Are you kidding me?”

Blue Marlin Biology

A marlin’s proportionally enormous eye is heated by special cells in the brain, allowing the fish to process images very rapidly, even in low-light conditions.

Scott Kerrigan /

The Eyes and Ears Have It
Imagine a blue marlin swimming in the cold, inky darkness. How do they effectively sense prey? For one thing, blue marlin have the biggest eyes in the billfish family, comparable to the enormous eyes of broadbill swordfish. Eye size is proportional to the capacity to gather light and other visual information. In addition, blues, like other marlin, swordfish and some sharks, have the ability to heat their brains and eyes using a counter-current exchange method and special warmth-producing cells contained in tissue located at the base of the cranium. The ability to process “frames per second” is proportional to heat, which gives these predators a huge advantage over schools of deeper-dwelling, slower-reacting prey animals that lack this heater organ.

Two other sensory apparatus also aid feeding capabilities: the inner ear and the lateral line system. The inner ear includes tiny otolith bones, which sense linear accelerations like sound waves, gravitational forces and body motion, and a canal system, which responds to angular accelerations of the head. The combination confers the ability to hear and also to orient in space. A marlin’s lateral line system, like the inner ear canals, operates by using sensory hair cells that trigger a nerve signal to the brain. These channels containing them run in networks down the sides of the body, and interestingly, the pattern of the network differs between Atlantic and Indo-Pacific blue marlin populations. They function as hydrodynamic receptors of low-frequency wavelengths from 10 to 200 Hertz being emitted within two body lengths of the marlin, which could come from prey, predators or even inanimate objects such as a fishing lure. It is highly likely that blues use their lateral line system to assist in close-range tracking and attacking of prey or lures. The inner ear system, on the other hand, detects sensations from much greater distances, such as the harmonic patterns in hulls and diesel engines, and sound-making knocks or rattles from a lure.

Blue Marlin Biology

The fish’s lateral line allows it to detect small vibrations at close distances. A marlin can actually feel a dredge moving through the water.

Doug Perrine

Long-Range Marlin Migrations
Both PSAT and conventional tags have provided incredible advances in our knowledge of movements and migrations of blue marlin, and anatomy and physiology studies tell us how they do it. Worldwide, cyclic movement patterns occur in sync with migratory food sources or to prime feeding areas, followed by travel to spawning areas in which prey items may be relatively scarce. It’s interesting that some individuals make large-scale movements, while others might hang around a given area for extended periods of time. One blue tagged off of Delaware was recaptured in the Indian Ocean, near Mauritius. Another moved from the Tasman Sea off southeastern Australia to the Indian Ocean off southeastern India. Another individual tagged near Puerto Rico had its PSAT pop up 120 days later, 4,776 miles away, offshore of Angola, Africa. Others swam from Hawaii to Mexico, and to French Polynesia. Some blues circulate around the Western Pacific, and others between the Coral Sea off of northeastern Australia to the South Pacific islands. And then there are the homebodies, PSAT-tagged blue marlin that stayed in limited areas, such as Hawaii, the Gulf of Mexico, the Kuroshio Current system and the Caribbean Basin, for extended time periods.

What are the secrets that enable these incredible fish to accomplish all of this? Biologist Nick Wegner explained to me that seawater is far more viscous and oxygen-poor than air. Blues utilize ram-jet ventilation of seawater entering the mouth and flowing aft through the millions of tiny, leaflike structures called lamellae stacked in rows along each gill filament. Blood pumps counter-current (or forward, opposite to the water flow) through these highly vascularized structures to maximize oxygen extraction. The efficiency of this arrangement is unequaled in the animal kingdom.

Blue marlin anatomy contributes enormously both to efficient distance swimming and to burst speeds as high as 72 mph. Elongated tail lobes reach undisturbed water beyond the turbulence created by the body. The bill may provide a hydrodynamic advantage, and certainly, the grooves and depressions for folding the dorsal, pectoral and pelvic fins against the marlin’s body help significantly. I can remember so many times gazing down from the tuna tower of assorted boats I was captaining and marveling at the effortless swimming motion of that fusiform body, head relatively motionless as the scythe-like tail swept the body forward. Forty miles a day for these fish on a transoceanic journey? No problem. Explosive bursts exceeding highway speed limits? Easy.

Blue Marlin Biology

Blue marlin are ambush predators, often appearing suddenly from the white water to crash a teaser, lure or bait.

Austin Coit

Marlin Feeding Behavior
We know from assorted studies that blue marlin are flexible, opportunistic feeders. Stomach analyses from around the world often indicate that blues have been feeding on primarily a single species, whatever they are following, or timing their migrations with which to coincide. Documented examples include chub mackerel off southern Portugal, skipjack tuna off southwestern Japan and bullet tuna off the Pacific coast of Mexico. However, the presence of other species indicates flexibility and opportunism, the marlin equivalent of, “Hey, we might be here to eat skipjack and smaller yellowfin, but if we run into a cloud of something else, we won’t turn it down.” Hence, we often find individuals packed with tiny filefish, puffers or triggerfish, or loaded up with deepwater fishes and squid.

Blue Marlin Biology

A powerful tail gives the fish plenty of horsepower for dazzling aerial displays as a pair of remoras hangs on for the ride.

Jessica Haydahl Richardson

I experienced the other end of the scale working as a guide for Nomad Sportfishing, a seaplane fly-in mothership operation in northeastern Australia, where we put to good use the scientific fact that blue and black marlin have the jawbone adaptations and stomach elasticity and size to consume prey up to 10 percent of their body weight. We targeted school yellowfin, narrow-barred mackerel, and dogtooth tuna from 8 to 50 pounds for both live- and dead-rigged baits, and did not shy away from baits on the larger end of the scale. We regularly slow-trolled live yellowfin weighing 40 pounds and more, and had them slammed by huge fish. We also did things like drill longitudinal holes through full-size Boone Lu Lu teasers and rig them with 400-pound stainless-steel cable and a 12/0 single Mustad 7692 to form what was in effect a giant fat version of a cedar plug. They got crushed even by smaller blues, particularly around the sunken reefs and atolls out in the Coral Sea, such as Kenn, Wreck and Frederick reefs. And, of course, we all know how much those big Hawaiian blues like shortbill spearfis

How do they do it? One key element is a cap, called the predentary bone, that joins the tips of the two lower jawbones. Unique to billfish, this bone allows the jaws to open much wider than otherwise possible without coming apart. We observed big marlin flashing in and attacking whole live tuna, open-mouthed, like predators without bills. The hits were so hard that the bait would have to be stunned just from contact with the jaws. Nonetheless, there were also instances of marlin firing in and drilling the baits in the head with their bills. Campbell actually has a video of one such incident that occurred in Tonga.

Blue Marlin Biology

From below, a marlin would see these rigged ballyhoo in shades of violet, blue and green.

Austin Coit

Color Schemes and Vision
Scientist Kerstin Fritsches, a leading authority on vision in billfish, enlightened me about key aspects of the way blue marlin see their world. The ability to detect, track and capture often very fast and elusive prey items contributes heavily to their evolutionary success. Blue marlin have eye muscles essentially identical to those of humans, which allow them to swivel and focus multidirectionally, yet their eyes are located on the sides of their head, so their vision is less binocular. They track items more often one eye at a time, and they possess high flicker fusion frequency, which means they can process a very fast rate of frames per second.

Perception of specific different colors requires the possession of a pigment, housed in a rod or cone, which is stimulated by the specific wavelength of the color, and this signal transmits to the giant optic lobes of the marlin brain. This has all been examined and tested with fresh eyes from specimens brought to the dock. The bottom line is that blue marlin see essentially in black and white with the dorsal portion of the retina (the portion that looks down, into the darkened depths), and they can see as color mostly shades of violet, blue and green with the ventral part of the retina (the part that looks up into the sunlit layers). Other fish, such as freshwater trout, can see the full color spectrum in a manner similar to humans. This means a blue marlin would see red as black, and various other colors as perhaps shades of gray. They still see them as different shades, but not in the way we humans do. Remember that

they are perfection incarnate in their environment, so whatever they see, and however they see it, is the pinnacle of millions of years of evolution.

About the Author: Capt. Scott Bannerot has worked in professional fishing since 1976. He earned his Coast Guard captain’s license in 1982 and a Ph.D. in marine biology from the University of Miami in 1984, and has worked as a charter captain, author and scientist in the Caribbean, Central America, South Pacific and Australia, with home base always in Islamorada in the Florida Keys.

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Fecop Costa Rica and Gray FishTag Update

Gray FishTag Research Symposium 2018

By Gary Graham – Dec 17, 2018

gray fishtag research

Approximately 40 Gray FishTag Research Scientific Advisory Board Members, GFR Marketing Partners, scientists, marine researchers, hotel owners, fleet owners, captains, publishers, members of the press and staff were on hand when Bill Dobbelaer, President of Gray Fishtag Research, Inc., (GFR) opened the 4th Annual Gray FishTag Research Symposium on Dec. 7 at the Lighthouse Point Yacht Club in Lighthouse Point, Florida.

Dobbelaer observed that he was “it was absolutely shocking, the number of folks present,” adding that

“many had traveled thousands of miles from two continents to attend the event.”

Continuing, he briefly introduced each participant, their background and their contribution to GFR: 1 of 3

Samantha Mumford
Moises Mug

Captain John Brownlee, one of the most recent Advisory Board Member as well as a Marketing Partner; Kristen Salazar, who represents Casa Vieja Lodge, Guatemala, the newest Research Center for GFR, and Samantha Mumford, founder of Premium Marine, Quepos, Costa Rica. Moises Mug, from Costa Rica (formerly of FECOP) , who is also on the Advisory Board, was unable to attend.

gray fishtag research

Dobbelaer announced that Carter Takacs of Marina Pez Vela was awarded the 2018 Bill Gray Conservation Award for outstanding achievement advocating for GFR and the ongoing research, as well as for being a true leader in fisheries conservation.

Nick Froelich was awarded the 2018 Top Fish Tagger in the World for tagging over 200 billfish on his charter boat, Double Nickel. Froelich declared that “tagging on his charters allows his clients to become more excited, and more involved, plus they had more respect for the resource.” He and his wife, Brandi, made a commitment to continue their great work by tagging even more fish in 2019.

Other meeting highlights:

Leah Baumwell, the new GFR Director, detailed the tagging statistics from the past year. More than 5,000 fish of 98 different species were tagged in 2018, and there were 133 recoveries from 32 species, many of which were discussed and emphasized in the program.

The following research centers were recognized for their ongoing efforts on behalf of GFR:
Pisces Sportfishing, Marina Pez Vela, Los Sueños, Sunset Marina, Zancudo Lodge, Grand Alaska Lodge, and Aqua World.

• GFR provided the data analysis from two roosterfish funded by Ramiro Ortiz and staff at Marina Pez Vela and one striped marlin funded by Pisces Sportfishing that were deployed with satellite tags during the year.

Kristen Salazar discussed Casa Vieja and their successful program banning all single-use plastic water bottles at both the lodge and their ten-boat fleet which she said had saved an estimated 80,000 plastic bottles from landfills and the ocean in 2018; this was supported by the Costa Del Mar program.
gray fishtag research

• Congratulations from the entire GFR Team to Salazar who recently completed her Executive MBA at the University of Miami in a remarkable 17 months! At her graduation, she observed, “I started … with a 3-week-old Bebe that came to class with me and 23 strangers who thought I was insane. My sanity, patience, family, work, friendships, and intelligence were put to the test and it was one of the most rewarding experiences to date.”

After Baumwell detailed the satellite tag data recovered from the first year of roosterfish tagging, she reviewed some of the proposed work GFR is planning for 2019.

Tracy Ehrenberg of Pisces Sportfishing, stressed that sportfishing was not only her family’s livelihood, but the livelihood of many others who depended on the striped marlin recreational fishery in Los Cabos. Fingerbank study review 1 of 14

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She concluded, “There are questions (mentioned in the next to last slide of her presentation) that must be answered. And to that end, Pisces Sportfishing will be funding another satellite tag for GFR research in 2019.

Tracy then described the ongoing, illegal striped marlin harpooning by pangas in Cabo San Lucas Finger Bank area, highlighting Pisces Sportfishing’s response and continuing efforts to prevent the illegal activity in the future.

gray fishtag research

Reports were received from the Sport Fishing sector in regard to commercial fishermen from Todos Santos (45 minutes drive up the Pacific coast from Cabo) capturing and commercializing marlin in the áreas knows as Finger Bank and Golden GateBank (where there is a concentration of these species due to schools of bait and other marine life which billfish feed on) killing them with hand held harpoons.

On the 21st of November of this year (2018), an operation was carried out with logistics set in place by SEMAR, FONMAR, CONAPESCA and PISCES GROUP CABO, where a navy interceptor boat and a Pisces Sportfishing boat participated with observers from FONMAR on board as well as representatives of  Sportfishing.  The result of the operation was the impounding of a 22ft panga with S.C.P.P Punta Lobos on the hull with the name Punta Lobos XLII and with registration number 0304182513-5 and a 115 hp Suzuki outboard motor 4 stroke, two harpoons and three trunks of fish without heads or tails which were fresh marlin giving a total weight of  95.78 lbs. It should be mentioned that more evidence could not be obtained at time of the inspection.

This action took place when the crew of the above mentioned boat, where found chumming with bait known as mackerel, to bring the marlin to the surface, where  harpoons were then used to spear the fish. When the fishermen became aware of the patrol boats presence advancing towards them,they threw the product, consisting of pieces or marlins into the sea, actions confirmed by the observers of  Fonmar and the representatives of Sportfishing. The patrol boat proceeded to do an inspection of the fishing boat, finding 30 pieces of mackerel bait, as well as two hand held harpoons, wrapped in a canvas sheet and blood on the floor of the boat which the fishermen were attempting to clean at the time of the inspection. Immediately a search was made of the nearby área where marlin trunks were found floating, which were secured and the formal report was written up along with the impounding of the fishing boat, motor, product and harpoons which possession and use of is prohibited by law.

Marco Ehrenberg accentuated the need to work with these panga operators to help provide them an alternative source of income.

Travis Moore, Marine Biologist and GFR research scientist, discussed a children’s field trip to a south Florida elementary school where a tagging lesson became a fish-anatomy lesson when they opened a fish for the kids to see inside.

Moore shared with the group how excited the students were to be a part of the activity.

Todd Staley and Marina Marrari, representing “Federacion Costarricense de Pesca (FECOP),” promotes sport fishing in Costa Rica through science and advocacy. They outlined their 2014 victory convincing the Government to increase the no-commercial fishing limit to 45-miles, covering over 200,000 square kilometers. The 2017 analysis of previous bycatch records have shown that it saved 25 tons of what would have been marlin bycatch based on the favorable results thus far. They are proposing increasing the limitations further to include offshore sea mounts in FECOP’s continuing efforts to improve sportfishing in Costa Rica.

Samantha Mumford of Premium Marine pledged to tag in the region beginning with her Pescadora Billfish Championship tournament,

an all-female angler tournament, as well as her pledge to involve more women in fishing.

Don Dingman of Hook the Future & Salt Life echoed the importance of involving women in fishing and then reviewed the need for research on redfish in Northern Florida.

Paul Michele of Navionics and Mike Caruso of The Fisherman Magazine underscored the strong interest in striped bass by anglers in the northeastern United States and agreed to fund two satellite tags for striped bass research. 1 of 3

Luis Basurto, of Aqua World in Cancun,
Dave Bulthuis of Costa Del Mar
Mark Cooper, formerly of the Denver Broncos

Luis Basurto of Aqua World in Cancun, spoke on the importance of expanding tagging in his region and his dedication to creating more of an interest in fishing and conservation in Cancun, Cozumel, and Isla Mujeres.

Dave Bulthuis of Costa Del Mar emphasized the importance of GFR and his personal commitment to attracting more Marketing Partners in 2019.

Mark Cooper, formerly of the Denver Broncos, volunteered to become more involved by helping to drive the GFR mission, starting with television exposure and outreach to industry friends.

John Brownlee announced that he joined Maverick at Los Sueños as the General Manager. Later during research project discussions, he brought up the possibility of comparing tagging data of roosterfish to amberjack. The results would be welcomed by the angling community. 1 of 8

Dick Tanner
Zsolt Szekely
Alex Henry
Joe Herdering
Eric Leech
Kim Underwood
Jonas Masreliez
James “Mango” Buckwald

Dick Tanner of CR Primo Fishing Tackle and Will Drost committed to helping fund the Los Sueños, Costa Rica blue marlin study proposed during the meeting.

Zsolt Szekely of Dolphin Electric Reel, Alex Henry of Southernmost Apparel, and Joe Herdering of Shadow Graphics,Also, in attendance Kim UnderwoodOffice Manager Gray Taxidermy, Jonas MasreliezCreative and Marketing Gray Taxidermy and James “Mango” Buckwald – Captains Support that all participated in the conversations and joined GFR expeditions in 2018.

Eric Leech, GFR Advisory Board, spoke about his tagging efforts in the Dominican Republic.

By: JM-Admin Category: Fisheries, Gray FishTag Recoveries, Marine Research
On December 16, 2017 swordfish (Xiphias gladius) was tagged with a Gray FishTag conventional tag (GFR6486). It was caught, tagged and released by angler Anthony DiMare while fishing with Captain Nick Stanczyk aboard the “Broad Minded” charter boat out of Bud’n Mary’s Marina, Islamorada, Florida USA. The group was fishing the waters about 25 miles east of Islamorada. The swordfish was estimated to be 47-inches. (119 cm) Lower Jaw Fork Length (LJFL) and had an approximate weight of 50-pounds. After tagging the fish, Mr. DiMare registered the swordfish using the Gray FishTag Research website ( and decided to name it “Little A.”

On August 11, 2018, 238 days later, the Swordfish was recaptured by NOAA observer McKenzie O’Connor while aboard PLL Vessel “Ellen Jean.

The tag recapture location was approximately 475 miles (764 km) straight line distance north from where the swordfish was originally tagged, in the waters 90 miles ESE of Savannah, Georgia. The measured length of the fish was 55-inches (139 cm) and a weight of 96-pounds (43.5 kg).

Recaptures are important and events such as this one are truly amazing! Not only do recaptures make valuable data available about each species that cannot be learned any other way, but they also provide encouraging incentives to continue tagging fish. The Gray FishTag Research program has been able to exceed their original expectations for fish recapture rates thanks to the hard-working professional fishermen who are on the water day in and day out.

GFR’s multi-species tagging program’s growth is remarkable with new species being tagged in new regions daily. Tags are provided free-of-charge to the collaborating professional fishermen, and the tag data is available to the public at

After hearing the results of 2018, the entire group endorsed the plans on the horizon for the 2019 fiscal year research.

Those plans include:

1. Continuing satellite tagging work on striped marlin in Cabo San Lucas, with funding generously provided by Pisces Sportfishing.
2. Continuing satellite tagging work on roosterfish in Quepos, Costa Rica; funding proposed by Ramiro Ortiz.
3. Beginning a vertical habitat study of swordfish in Florida; Seaguar provided funding for one satellite tag.
4. Beginning a striped bass movement study in the northeastern United States; Navionics has committed to two satellite tags.
5. Beginning a blue marlin FAD/seamount study in Costa Rica out of Los Sueños Research Center. Maverick, Will Drost, and CR Primo Fishing Tackle have committed to supporting this research.

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Costa Rica Fishing Roosterfish

Roosterfish Tournament Results

Inaugural PanAmerican Roosterfish Tournament Results


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.

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Costa Rica Fishing

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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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 *


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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Costa Rica Fishing, It’s Not Always About the Fish

It’s Not Always About the Fish

Special Holiday Fishing Feature by Todd Staley, Communications Director FECOP

One of the most exciting days fishing I ever had was in a lagoon in Nicaragua accessible by passing through myriad of rivers and creeks on the Caribbean side of  Costa Rica. Mike Holliday and I hooked over 60 tarpon on casting plugs. We tired of tarpon and went to the beach to cast for snook. The tarpon wouldn’t leave us alone. We were hooking them from shore. I watched as Holliday played and eventually landed a respectable tarpon from the beach with a fly rod. That was nearly 28 years ago.
What did I see that day? Fish, fish, and more fish.


I fished the same lagoon many times over the next several years and although I never matched that one fantastic day, I always had good fishing. Then one day I went and the tropical rains had the lagoon  all muddied up. I cast furiously for hours with memories of that fantastic day playing like a movie in my head. I had not one bite. My arm tired of casting and I sat down to rest. I looked over towards the shoreline. Then it jumped out at me. A beautiful flaming orange wild heleconia. I scanned the bank. One after another they rose from the jungle.

On the long fishless ride back into Costa Rica I started to notice things I never saw before even though I had crossed this path many times. Wild orchids hang over the creeks, some of them humongous and all of them spectacular. There were so many different kinds. I had made this trek many times and only saw water and fish.  The normal trip back took one and a half hours. This day it took almost four hours. That was the day I learned it is not always about the fish.

The ocean off the Pacific coast of Costa Rica drops off  fast. A couple hundred yards off the beach you’ll find a couple hundred feet of, and by the time you reach twenty miles there is more than a mile of water below your boat. Most of the Costa Rica big game fishing is rarely done beyond twenty miles unless green water forces the fleet further out. Fishing the Pacific can be like living the Discovery Channel.

The humpback whales come twice a year. Once from the North and once from the South and enter the near shore waters with their calves. I’ve seen killer whales eat a sailfish. I’ve also had them come and surf the wake of the boat. Dolphins pass by in schools of thousands. Both spotted and spinner dolphins put on a show that is just as exciting to watch as the 200 lb tuna that swims below them puts on a show while testing your back. Pilot whales group up in pods or by the hundreds and cruise right next to the boat to check things out.

While fishing roosterfish in the Golfo Dulce, I’ve stopped fishing to watch six whale sharks feed on plankton. Another time I saw a leatherback turtle as big as a pool table patiently waiting for the sun to go down so she could go to the beach and lay eggs in the volcanic sand. What’s funny about every one of those experiences is I don’t remember what I caught that day, but I will always remember what I saw.

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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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Commericial Tuna Boat

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

[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.


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.


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.


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 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.


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 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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