JACO – Sportfishermen along the central Pacific coast are up in arms after some were harassed on the high seas by commercial fishing outfits.
Fishermen have reported at least three incidents in the past several weeks in which commercial tuna boats employed low-flying helicopters, explosives, an AK-47 assault rifle and other aggressive tactics to intimidate sportfishing boats that had tourists on board.
An estimated 50 fishermen met this week with Guillermo Ramírez, an attorney for the Costa Rican Fisheries Institute (INCOPESCA), to discuss the incident.
The first occurred June 20 when four sportfishing boats near Quepos were chased off a school of tuna by a helicopter from a commercial tuna boat that also began dropping explosive charges in the water near them. Witnesses also reported seeing at least one AK-47 in the helicopter.
The next day, seven sportfishing boats from the Los Marina, north of Jacó, were harassed and imprisoned by a commercial tuna boat.
The boat intentionally encircled the sportfishing boats, catching all seven in its huge nets. Unable to escape, the seven boats were harassed and threatened by the tuna boat and its helicopter for an hour before they were released.
The boat is registered in Nicaragua by a company incorporated in Panama.
On June 22, a single sportfishing boat out of Los Sueños was threatened by a large tuna boat near a popular fishing spot called Cabo Blanco.
The incidents have been documented, and copies of video and still photos have been sent to Carlos Villalobos, head of INCOPESCA. Upon viewing the tapes and photos, Villalobos ordered an immediate investigation, vowing this would not be tolerated in Costa Rica.
The law governing fishing holes is basically first-come, first-served. If the large tuna boats are actively netting a school of tuna, the sportfishing boats cannot interfere. Likewise, if the sportfishing boats are hooked up and actively fishing a school of tuna, the commercial boats cannot interfere.
The law also requires all commercial tuna boats to be at least 12 miles offshore. Most sportfishermen agree that 12 miles is too close, and there is an ongoing effort to mandate that commercial boats stay 40 miles offshore.
What to Do
In a Fishing Frenzy
If you are a sportfishing captain and find yourself in a confrontation with a commercial fishing boat, document everything you can, says Larry Drivon of Maverick Sportfishing Yachts.
He recommends you jot down the time, location, name of all boats involved and full names and contact information of any witnesses. Also, take photographs and make videotapes, if possible.