Fish fight

Tension between sport and commercial fishing in Mexico.

Members of fishing co-operatives in the Mexican resort town of Mazatlán recently blocked the navigation channel for eight hours, escalating their demands to be allowed to fish commercially for mahi-mahi.

This has put them on a direct collision course with the sports fishing industry that generates USD 1.6 billion for Baja California Sur annually.

According to article 68 of the General Law of Sustainable Fisheries and Acquaculture, this species of fish is exclusively reserved for sport fishing. An advisor to the Directorate of Inspection and Surveillance of the National Commission for Aquaculture and Fisheries (Conapesca) explains, “The law states that mahi-mahi is reserved for sport fishing for 50 nautical miles, to change this requires a change in the law.”

“The law states that mahi-mahi is reserved for sport fishing for 50 nautical miles, to change this requires a change in the law.”

Advisor to Conapesca, Mexico

According to a local fisherman, coastal fishing has been badly hit in the country. His arguments for opening the species to commercial fishing are: firstly, local fisherman are already catching them incidentally, secondly, existing species for commercial fishing are not profitable enough to maintain the fishing industry and finally, other Latin American countries, such as Peru, already catch the fish commercially.

To understand and tackle the problem, Deputy Claudia Yáñez in Colima established an open forum for all stakeholders to express their thoughts on allowing commercial fishermen to catch mahi-mahi. An advisor to Deputy Yáñez told us, “The controversy was provoked when we announced that no bill would be proposed until a thorough analysis is conducted and we could provide assurance that it would not affect Baja California Sur [the regional hub of sport fishing].”

A sports fishing business in Baja California Sur admits, “One of the problems with sports fishing is that, despite limits on the number of pieces that can be caught, there is no control. Go to the airport in La Paz or Los Cabos at the end of the week and you will see a lot of tourists, especially Americans and Canadians, with coolers full of fish.”

“One of the problems with sports fishing is that … there is no control.”

Sport fishing businessman, Mexico

The same source had an informed perspective on regulatory challenges, “Mahi-mahi is not from Mexico, it is a highly migratory species, so commercial fishing of it would require compliance with international regulations, perhaps similar to tuna.”

A local environmentalist has additional concerns, “If they were to release mahi-mahi to commercial fishing without the proper regulation, inspection and surveillance, in addition to impacting the sports fishing industry, it would deplete the stock status of the species.”



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