Tag: Yellowfin Tuna

Costa Rican Fishermen Want Access to Local Tuna

Tussling for tuna: Costa Rican Fishermen Want More Access to Local Tuna

The Tico Times

Todd Staley Published for The Tico Times February 14, 2019

Speed boats launched for a purse seiner to herd dolphins and tuna. (Photo courtesy of FECOP)

Robert Nunes is a commercial fisherman who actively defends his peers in Costa Rica’s commercial fishing industry. He volunteers a lot of his time with Mauricio Gonzalez, director of the Camera de Palangreros (or the chamber of longliners) traveling the country lobbying for fisherman’s rights.

Longlining is a type of fishing that boats set miles of hooks across the ocean and is not selective in what type of fish takes the bait placed on a hook. This has caused grief among many different groups who support, sharks, marlin, and sailfish that some people consider bycatch to a longline boat. The longline sector does not consider these species bycatch as the total catch is utilized and nothing gets wasted.

But Nunes is an innovator and found a way to specifically target tuna with less than one percent bycatch. One of first to outfit his commercial boats with greenstick, an art of fishing that targets tuna and rarely catches anything but tuna.

 

Robert Nunes (Photo courtesy of Changing Seas)

Tuna are able to see what’s happening above the water and greenstick fishing uses lures that skip along the surface, so greenstick fishermen rarely catch anything besides tuna.

Nunes has a six-boat operation. He fishes greenstick whenever possible and catches about 80 tons of tuna a year. That still only makes up for 40 percent of his catch though. Lots of times, tuna isn’t available so he longlines for dorado, which can catch sharks and billfish.

Gonzalez, the director of the chamber of longliners, is not opposed to using greenstick, but for him, it’s a matter of cost.

“We would love to fish greenstick a lot more,” says Gonzalez “If we had access to the [tuna]. We don’t have a lot of interest in many other species, but we need to make a living.”

Costa Rica has rich fisheries, but every year, thousands of tons of tuna are fished by foreign vessels. While local fishermen face high costs, those from other countries extract Costa Rican tuna for pennies on the dollar.

“It costs us as Costa Rican fishermen a lot more than foreign tuna boats to extract tuna from the ocean,” Nunes said.

To extract 80 tons of tuna, Nunes says he paid the government $46,178 in fees for licenses, social security, INS insurance, and taxes or $1.73 per kilo of tuna extracted from Costa Rican waters.

“If you add the salaries of my employees on the boats which is part of the costs to access the resource it is over $157,000 per year,” Nunes said.

That’s almost 200 times more than what the country makes off of foreign vessels.

Costa Rica sells a license to a foreign boat for $54 per net ton of that vessel’s capacity. If that boat sells 300 metric tons to the cannery in Puntarenas it receives the next license gratis. The system is perpetual. In 2018 Costa Rica issued 12 tuna licenses to fishing boats called purse seiners. Four were paid for and the rest were given away for free. All the boats were flagged from either Nicaragua or Venezuela.

They reported a total catch of 8,422 tons of tuna. In total Costa Rica collected $153,264.48 in fees. That means Costa Rica had a benefit of just under 2 cents or 11 colones for every kilo of tuna extracted from Costa Rican waters.

Gonzalez says purse seiners are also a local fishermen’s biggest nemesis.

A purse seiner set ontop of dolphins to catch the tuna below The Tico Times archives

Purse seiners surround schools of fish with up to several kilometers of net. The net is pulled in from the bottom and everything caught in the net’s radius is hauled into the boat. This type of fishing is highly regulated due to the amount of fish and bycatch a single boat is capable of producing.

In the Americas, the Inter American Tropical Tuna Commission (IATTC) allots each member country a quota of tuna it can catch with purse seiners. The IATTC allots Costa Rica around 9,000 tonnes a year, but we catch none of it.

Costa Rica does not have any purse seine boats of its own and sells its quota to foreign flagged vessels. The system in place is outdated and Costa Rica benefits next to nothing by them being here.

We have a lot to gain from the leaving though.

As of 2014, purse seine boats can no longer work within 45 miles of Costa Rica’s shore and the sport fishing sector has seen a giant recovery in tuna. We’ve also seen more marlin and dorado which are often discarded bycatch by tuna boats.

By studying bycatch records from observers on board tuna boats in 2017, FECOP found that 25 tons of what would have been marlin bycatch were saved by reducing the area they fish. One purse seiner has the capacity to catch as much tuna in one trip as the entire commercial fleet of 300 longlines catches in one year.

“If there were more of the resource available to Costa Rican fishermen, we would target tuna. It is the fish that pays most at the market,” explained Nunes. “If you add the money generated by the sport fishing fleet for Costa Rica into the figures it is much more when you look at the whole picture.”

The benefit of giving tuna back to Costa Ricans would have a domino effect. Better living conditions for coastal families, less pressure on controversial species and more fish for the sport fishing sector as well. It would also place another star on Costa Rica’s reputation for taking care of nature.


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

This story was made possible thanks to The Tico Times 5 % Club. If only 5 percent our readers donated at least $2 a month, we’d have our operating costs covered and could focus on bringing you more original reporting from around Costa Rica. We work hard to keep our reporting independent and groundbreaking, but we can only do it with your help. Join The Tico Times 5% Club and help make stories like this one possible.

Read Blog Detail

Costa Rica Fishing Species – Yellowfin Tuna

Costa Rica Fish Species

Meet the Yellowfin

 

One of FECOP’s primary initiatives is to reduce “bycatch” resulting (most often times) from illegal, non-sustainable, tuna fishing operations in Costa Rica’s Pacific ocean. The aftermath of this illegal activity includes the  death of non-targeted species such as sailfish, marlin (billfish), dolphins, sea-turtles, and the destruction fragile marine ecosystems. Learn more about our current initiatives Tuna for Ticos, and The Costa Rica Tuna Decree

From the IGFA Fish Database
Occurs worldwide in deep, warm temperate oceanic waters. It is both pelagic and seasonally migratory, but has been known to come fairly close to shore.

Tuna Fast Facts

Did you know – The yellowfin can be distinguished from the blackfin by the black margins on its finlets?

Tuna are considered warm blooded because they can regulate their own body temperature . The very few partly or fully warm-blooded fish possess organs near their muscles called retia mirabilia that consist of a series of minute parallel veins and arteries that supply and drain the muscles.

IGFA FISH DATABASEMost large yellowfins have overextended second dorsal and anal fins that may reach more than halfway back to the tail base in some large specimens. In smaller specimens under about 60 lb (27 kg) and in some very large specimens as well, this may not be an accurate distinguishing factor since the fins do not appear to be as long in all specimens. The pectoral fins in adults reach to the origin of the second dorsal fin, but never beyond the second dorsal fin to the finlets as in the albacore. The bigeye tuna (T. obesus) and the blackfin tuna (T. atlanticus) may have pectoral fins similar in length to those of the yellowfin. The yellowfin can be distinguished from the blackfin by the black margins on its finlets. Blackfin tuna, like albacore, have white margins on the finlets. It can be distinguished from the bigeye tuna by the lack of striations on the ventral surface of the liver.

 

Stop Illegal Fishing in Costa Rica

tuna for ticos costa rica

This is probably the most colorful of all the tunas. The back is blue black, fading to silver on the lower flanks and belly. A golden yellow or iridescent blue stripe runs from the eye to the tail, though this is not always prominent. All the fins and finlets are golden yellow though in some very large specimens the elongated dorsal and anal fins may be silver edged with yellow. The finlets have black edges. The belly frequently shows as many as 20 vertical rows of whitish spots.

tuna for ticos

The diet depends largely on local abundance, and includes flying fish, other small fish, squid and crustaceans. Fishing methods include trolling with small fish, squid, or other trolled baits including strip baits and artificial lures as well as chumming with live bait fishing.

It is highly esteemed both as a sport fish and as table fare. Its flesh is very light compared to that of other tunas, with the exception of the albacore, which has white meat.

If you would like to make an impact and help FECOP  stop illegal fishing in Costa Rica, please sign the 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.

More Costa Rica Fishing  Species

Related Posts

Sustainable Fishing – Greensticking for Tuna in Costa Rica

Explaining the Costa Rica Tuna Decree

Tuna for Ticos – Sign the Petition Against Illegal Fishing in Costa Rica

Read Blog Detail

Top 10 Fastest Fish in the Ocean

Costa Rica Fishing – The 10 fastest fish in the Ocean

Most of these species frequent the offshore waters of Costa Rica. Which speedster ranks number 1? Watch the video to find out!

Top 10 Worlds Fastest Ocean Fish Video

Unfortunately several of these Top 10 Fastest Fish in the Ocean are become endangered due to non-sustainable industrial level fishing practices, mainly from foreign fleets. Learn more about FECOP’s tuna decree and what we are doing to maintain healthy fish populations throughout Costa Rica including stopping the exportation of Sailfish, pushing tuna pursein boats 45 miles offshore, and decreasing bycatch by 25 tons in 2017. Check out some of the articles below for more information about the sustainable fishing projects, initiatives and events throughout Costa Rica.

About FECOP
FECOP is an (NGO) in Costa Rica focused on marine conservation through education and outreach to local communities.

Related Articles
Explaining the Costa Rica Tuna Decree
Why a Sailfish is Worth More Alive than Dead
Costa Rica is Giving Away it’s Fishing Wealth
Sustainable Fishing Techniques – Green Sticking for Tuna

You Can Make an Impact! Join Our Mailing List to Become a FECOP Member FREE

Penn Fishing
Read Blog Detail

Pin It on Pinterest