Further support for recreational fishing is being proposed in Costa Rica, where the sector generates around 13,000 direct jobs and contributes $520m to the country’s economy. With so much at stake, the Costa Rican Federation of Sport Fishing (FECOP), is lobbying to push commercial fleets further offshore.
The statistics were presented by FECOP during a meeting with the Legislative Assembly’s Special Commission on Environment to argue the case to extend the boundary from 45 miles to 200 miles. If successful, the move will help retain and protect Costa Rica’s tuna wealth and promote its sustainable use, said FECOP representative Henry Marín Sandoval and President Ricardo Seevers. Sandoval also said that of the three million tourists that visit the country every year, 150,000 (5.2%) engage in sportfishing, many of them from the US. In addition, they fish from 150 boats belonging to Costa Rican families, providing jobs for captains, mates, service personnel, boat maintenance workers and more.
“We are talking about around 13,000 people who depend directly on sportfishing-related tourism, which is 1.6% of the total jobs in Costa Rica,” explained Sandoval. “And the $520m economic contribution not only remains in the sector but becomes more dynamic in other sectors as well.”
Deputy José Maria Villalta, of the Special Commission on Environment, said there were talks in the Legislative Assembly to extend the area of exclusion of commercial boats to lessen their impact and support tourist fishing. Statistics are beginning to show that fish stocks are improving in areas where tuna purse seine boats – large foreign vessels with nets for yellowfin tuna – are prohibited. Their bycatch (unwanted fish) is often made up of marlin, sailfish, wahoo, dorada and sharks, all species prized by the recreational angler.
Marine biology specialist, Dr Marina Marrari, working with FECOP, is analysing catch data from sportfishing fleets and has already identified that fishing for pelagic species is much better without purse seiners operating in the area. In 2014 FECOP drafted a Tuna Decree, passed by President Luis Guillermo Solís, that pushed tuna seiners out 45 miles from shore and protected other important areas for a total of 200,000 square kilometres of territorial waters.