Last month INCOPESCA (Instituto Costarricense de Pesca y Agricultura) took another step forward in the conservation efforts of their own fisheries. A new law will require a vessel monitoring systems (VMSs) on all commercial vessels in Costa Rican waters that are 56 ft or longer. The new law was enacted on August 5th, 2009 and all boats must have working VMS within six months of that date.
With the help of The Billfish Foundation’s (TBF) chief scientist, Dr. Russell Nelson, and TBF Central American Conservation Director Herbert Nanne, the new regulation was finally passed after more than 1.5 years of pressure. The new VMS will allow Costa Rican officials to monitor the exact positions of all fishing vessels and long line boats via satellite. For a long time Costa Rica has not allowed FAD (fish aggregating devices) due to the high by catch rate of sailfish, marlin, dorado, and wahoo – however it has been a belief that foreign vessels from Panama, Nicaragua, and even China had continued to use these irresponsible practices. With the new VMS officials will be able to tell if boats are fishing within the 12-mile territorial waters and more specifically near the prestigious national park of Isla del Coco.
In addition to helping with conservation of the national fishery, the new VMS will also help prevent ugly confrontations between commercial fishing boats and private sport fishing boats. Last year there was a highly publicized incident in Costa Rica where several commercial fishing boats surrounded sport fishing boats trolling for billfish and tuna and then began making threats and even throwing dynamite near the sport fishing boats. The VMS will not be required for Costa Rica sport fishing boats, but it will monitor every large commercial fishing boat that enters Costa Rican territory.
This good news comes just months after Costa Rica passed another law eliminating the exportation of sailfish meat and the use of live bait by commercial long liners.