Editorials | Environmental | June 2008
|It's Time for Responsible Fishing|
Myles Lineberger - PVNN
Puerto Vallarta - I have seen some great changes in the fishing regulations in Latin America since the early 70's but we still have a long way to go. I first spent 3 years living and fishing on the Pacific side of Costa Rica and stopped netted rivers and no catch and release - mostly for the bill fish.
Then I spent 6 years in the Puerto Vallarta area. I haven't seen any stopped netted rivers (where a river has a net pulled from one side to the other) but there are so many nets - and I mean like 30 to 40 nets - at the mouth of the Ameca River that you could walk from one side to the next on them.
Nets are supposed to be a certain distance from the beach but there are always nets in too close. I accompanied a friend one night that ran a drift net boat out by Punta Mita. It was an 800-meter net and we started right at sunset probably about 200 meters off the beach. We no sooner took the net out than along came a turtle heading right for it. Luckily, the turtle was right at the end of the net - and I was there.
I told my friend that the turtle was going to get in the net and he said great we would be eating turtle. I told him we were not taking any turtles because it was illegal and it's just something that just won't happen around me if I can help it.
I started throwing some of my weights from my tackle box to get the turtle to move to the end of the net so it could just keep swimming off the where ever it's destination was, well it worked and my friend was not very happy with me and by the way that is very hard work pulling in the 800 meter net 3 times in one night and sleeping with roaches just made it for a long night.
I spent my 21st birthday on a beautiful beach in Costa Rica and there was this little hotel being built and an old care taker watching the place. He let me sleep on the floor because there weren't any rooms finished.
I woke up at sunrise and went walking on the beach. This was one beautiful beach and I was the only one out that morning. I saw where the turtles had come on shore to lay their eggs and decided to use a palm frond to wipe away their tracks.
I walked a couple of miles until I came to a small river. It was of the most beautiful mornings I have ever spent on a beach alone - and on my birthday! I got back to the hotel and the old guy was very mad. He said that the turtles just didn't come up on the beach that night so he couldn't get any turtle eggs. I just looked at him and said, "No... your kidding."
I hadn't seen any turtle eggs in our area that weren't where they were supposed be (like in the sand), but I did go down past El Tuito looking for beach property and one of the locals said he had a treat for us and brought us a large bag of turtle eggs. So the problem in Mexico is not a lack of laws but a lack of enforcement. They just don't fund the manpower. I could go out any day in our bay and find illegal nets. I have also seen some changes at Cajon de Peñas. The government is funding a person to patrol the lake to stop the illegal nets and the spear fishing.
The catch and release offshore is getting better by the local captains, but they still bring in lots of Sailfish and big Marlin to be smoked and sold in tacos, which I have to say are really good, especially at Tacon de Marlin across from the airport. As I write this I feel like maybe I just should not be eating there no matter how good they are, but I haven't seen that work it's just the laws and the enforcement that will make the difference.
Sometimes we just have to wait until the fish are almost gone, like the Corvina and the Snook (Rablo), before the government will take action. You can ask any local fisherman how the fishing was 20 years ago and he will tell you they were catching Marlin right in the bay and the Snappers were huge. Then ask them how the fishing is now, and they will say it's not very good.
No one seems to understand that there will be no more fish if we don't start fishing responsibly. I do have hopes of it getting better, because I want to be able to take my grand kids fishing so they can enjoy what I have been doing all my life.
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