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Puerto Vallarta News NetworkNews Around the Republic of Mexico | May 2007 

New Regulation Threatens Sportfishing in Mexico
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Mexico's New Shark and Ray Fishing Regulations Threaten Billfish & Other Ocean Resources. The following is an urgent message from The Billfish Foundation.

Despite strong opposition from The Billfish Foundation and scores of partners in Mexico, Mexican officials approved Regulation NOM-029 (Shark Norma). This regulation, promoted as a way to stop the over-exploitation of sharks and rays, was rejected by Mexico's last two Presidents, but was strongly supported by commercial fishing interests in Ensenada, Sinaloa, Sonora, Mexican Fisheries (CONAPESCA) and some Mexican and United States Non Governmental Organizations (NGOs).

While The Billfish Foundation applauds the shark finning prohibitions included in the package of regulations we note that commercial longline interests have long lobbied for the liberalized permitting requirements that are also part of the package. There are elements of these rules that contain hidden potential to further reduce marine resources in and around Baja California Sur.

The Billfish Foundation will continue to work with the groups listed below to fight to rescind the bad rules. Foundation President Ellen Peel stated, "We are working with our friends in Mexico to look for legal ammunition against the NOM-029. We are looking towards federal legislation to overrule this threat to ocean resources, and we are continuing to network with conservation minded Mexican friends and supporters to overturn this foolish set of regulations."

Three "Trojan Horses"

By-catch -- NOM-029 does not restrict by-catch, allowing all "incidental" by-catch to be kept. By-catch runs about 60 to 80%. According to the INP National Report in 1999 two longliners out of Magdalena Bay killed 11,743 striped marlin in 9 months. This comprised 77.5% of the total catch. Panga longliners with shark permits from Manzanillo kill 80% sailfish and sell 150 to 200 tons every month.

Reduction in Protected Zones -- Under current regulations no commercial fishing vessels are allowed to fish for or possess marlin, sailfish, dorado and other protected species within the 50 mile conservation zones. The only allowed fishing was under sportfishing bag limits. This law provided strong protection to a wide variety of marine life. Under NOM-029 these species can be targeted and retained. Commercial boats less than 30' can come within 10 miles of shore with longlines (section 4.2.1). Commercial longline boats between 30' and 89' can fish as near as 15 miles from the shore in the Sea of Cortes, and within 20 miles of the west coast of the Baja (4.7.3).

Current Permits -- Section 4.3.1 of the new regulation restricts the issuance of new shark permits. However, according to reliable sources in the fishing industry, there are approximately 4,200 boats that will be fishing from existing shark permits. 308 permits have been issued to fishing boats over 89 feet, and 225 permits to boats 89 feet or less. More than 600 permits have been issued to pangas (22' to 30'), with 6 pangas able to work from one permit. Based on current fishing practices, this means there are can be more than 1.5 million hooks in the Sea of Cortes on any one day, fishing for sharks, rays and other species.

The rationale for those promoting this regulation has been "something is better than nothing, and this is only a start". Opponents point out, however, that the regulation will likely increase the overall fishing pressure on the fisheries it aims to protect. This is particularly true for fisheries inside the current 50 mile protected zone, which will become new targets for commercial fishing. Shark populations will face more depletion. Longline boats will continue to rely on high levels of by-catch (billfish and dorado) that will deplete sport fisheries and impact tourism.

The people of Baja California Sur are working together to stop these regulations from going into effect. They insist that the "Norma" must not become law, and that the public consulting process must be reinstated. If NOM-029 becomes law, permits will be issued to at least 225 medium-sized fishing boats. Once these shark fishing permits are issued, commercial boats will be able to fish under an "amparo" for at least a full year.
The Billfish Foundation supports the people from BCS who are demanding an immediate cancellation or suspension of this shark Norma until the following modifications are included:

1. That the 50 miles zones already in the law be respected. This protects sharks as well as all other species which live inside 50 miles of the coast.

2. That incidental by catch be clearly defined, so that sports fish aren't commercially targeted.

3. That the sport fishing species which have been set aside by the Ley de Pesca for sport fishing to be respected and not commercialized.

4. That there is Regionalization of Permits, so that Sinaloa or Sonora boats, where there are even fewer fish, can't come and fish the Baja.

5. That the Armada de Mexico be in charge of (inspection and vigilance) enforcement.

6. That solid stock assessment and fishing effort data be compiled in a comprehensive environmental impact study which should have been included.


The Billfish Foundation, along with other groups, will fight to rescind these bad rules. President Ellen Peel stated: "We are working with our friends in Mexico to look for legal ammunition against the Norma-29, we are looking towards federal legislation to overrule this threat to ocean resources and we are continuing to network with conservation-minded Mexican friends ands supporters to overturn this foolish set of regulations." Good conservation pays, irresponsible management is short sighted and causes everyone to lose. If you fish in waters off Cabo and the Sea of Cortez or you support responsible management in those waters, let your voice be heard by emailing your opposition the following:

Felipe Calderon Hinojosa, Presidente de Mexico,

Cesar Nava, Secretario Particular,

Alberto Cardenas, Secretario Sagarpa,

Ramon Corral, Comisionado Nacional de Acuacultura y Pesca,

Saniago Creel Miranda, Coordinador del GPPAN,

Manlio Fabio Vbeltrones, Coordinador del PRI,

Arturo Escobar, Senador PVEM,

Luis Coppola Joffroy, Senador PAN,

Jorge Alfonso Ituurbide Gurerra, Tecnico Secretaria Partiular Presidencia,

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