BY ROBIN WADE
WON Staff Writer
CABO SAN LUCAS-- In a long drawn out battle between the commercial and sportfishing industries, yesterday in Michoacán, Mexico, the government met in a third round of public forums to decide the fate of the sportfishing industry but amending Article 68. Guess what-we won!
“The Department of Mexican Fisheries decided to violate their own laws by allowing the commercial fishing industry to illegally harvest dorado,” Vince Radice, producer of the El Oro de Cortez (The Gold of Cortez) documentary said. You may remember WON ran an article about the video depicting the greed and corruption of a few, helping to destroy the last relatively abundant fish in the Sea of Cortes. If you missed it, here is a link to the latest version http://sancarlos.tv/portfolio/a-fish-made-of-gold/
“Twenty five years ago, some far-sighted Mexican legislators decided that tourism and sportfishing jobs were more sustainable and lucrative than commercial fishing jobs and created Article 68 in the general law of the Mexican fisheries,” Radice said. “This made it illegal to commercially fish six species of fish in Mexico; sailfish, marlin, roosterfish, swordfish, sabalo, and dorado.”
The less than stellar oversight of the commercial fishermen’s efforts created a decline in their catches and they turned their attention to the wanton take of dorado. There is a very lucrative, illegal market in the United States for them and both governments seemed to look the other way.
“I have filed a Freedom of Information Act with NOAA through lawyers from the Center for Biological Diversity out of San Francisco to receive documents regarding their investigations related to dorado crossing into the U.S.,” Radice said. “Once we have these documents we will know what our options are against the U.S. Feds. and make America close the border to dorado imports. They have to enforce the Lacey Act as long as Article 68 remains intact.”
It’s long and complicated but the jest of it is there were “language loop holes” based on the fact that in some areas, there is no enforcement available, and given the bad economy, “needy commercial fishermen” were legally allowed to fish for dorado. What the findings turned up during the public forums though, was that only a few (and none of the needy) were benefiting from the loop holes.
So onto Friday’s victory! Victory number one: Based on his “poor performance,” the Fisheries Commission voted to request Federal Legislators to ask Ramon Corral, Head of the National Commission of Fisheries to step down.
Victory number two: After hearing testimony and presentations regarding the alleged “economical benefits of commercial dorado take” to the coastal communities, it was determined that only a few were reaping any rewards from NOM 029 and the words “social justification” were stripped from the amendment.
“This victory is truly amazing considering we only heard of the forum two weeks ago,” Minerva Saenz, President of the Los Cabos Sportfishing Union said. “Representation from many distant areas of Mexico rallied together with a single e-mail, and attended the forum creating an incredible united front against the commercialization of dorado. In attendance were sportfishing leaders from Manzanillo, Culiacan, Loreto, the East Cape, Mazatlan, Puerto Vallarta, Mexico City and many other areas,” Saenz said.
Of the many representatives there Friday, 85 percent voted in favor of supporting the sportfishing industry over the commercial industry. “It's a well deserved victory for all of Mexico’s sportfishing interests, anglers from everywhere, boat owners, charter companies, airlines, hotels, marinas, fuel docks, and an endless list of trickle down benefits,” Cortez Yacht Charters said.
Anglers are reminded there are still ways to continue to protect Mexico’s sportfishing. One is to go online and take the national survey called “Angler Economic Survey” after they return from trips here. These statistics will be compiled to scientifically prove the importance of the angler dollar. http://surveys.questionpro.com/akira/TakeSurvey?id=1751677&rd=66335670
And before you come down if anywhere in the state of Baja Sur is your destination, don’t buy your license online. Baja Sur is the only state in Mexico where a special Marina Resources fund (FORMA) is set up. This special “pool of funds” allows the licensing money to stay within the state for resource management and funding marine law enforcement, such as gas for patrols. Every area has licenses available locally, usually through your outfitter, so please consider this option when you can.