The Arenal Area Magazine

Sports fisherman decries bullying by tuna seiner


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The owner of a Costa Rican sports fishing boat said that a Venezuelan tuna seiner threatened to run down his boat while the commercial fishing boat’s helicopter dropped incendiary devices on all sides.

The goal was to force the sports fishing boat from an area favored by spinner dolphins, which suggests the presence of tuna below the water.

This is the latest confrontation between a large commercial fish factory and sports fishing boats. The confrontation happened just 20 miles offshore from Playa Garza on the Nicoya Peninsula, according to the boat owner.

He is Gary Carter, and his boat is the Silver-Rod-O. He is a successful sports fisherman who has been in Costa Rica since the late 1980s. He is irked that the Costa Rican government permits such activities within waters it controls.

The confrontation happened Sunday. The commercial tuna boat is the La Rosa Mistica, which was not flying a national flag, according to Carter. He said the confrontation was unexpected:

“We were celebrating one of our guest’s first-ever sailfish release, when the seiner veered from it’s course and headed directly toward our boat. The helicopter then began making passes over us, as it circled the dolphin school. As the seiner came closer and began setting it’s net, the helicopter started dropping incendiary devises around us and the school of spinners. Several landed within 50 meters of our boat, and in all directions, there was smoke billowing from the water.

“We were determined to continue fishing the area and not yield our position, but the seiner headed straight toward us, threatening to either encircle us in their net or be plowed into the sea unless we abandoned the school of dolphin. Rather than
endanger our guests, we retreated and watched and listened as the La Rosa Mistica closed the net and it’s crew obnoxiously celebrated it’s victory.”

Carter said the Venezuelan captain declined to engage in a radio conversation and would not respond to hails from the sports fishing boat.
The explosive devices dropped by the helicopter crew are designed to chase away the dolphin.

This is not the first time Carter has been threatened by commercial boats. “This is certainly not the first encounter of it’s type in Costa Rican waters, but it’s time that something is done about it.” he said.

Carter also attributed the decline of large tuna to heavy fishing by commercial craft like the La Rosa Mistica. He said that the average tuna catch now is from 25 to 35 pounds in place of fish weighing over 100 pounds in the past.

A study by the Billfish Foundation found that North Americans traveling here in 2008 to fish generated $599 million or about 2 percent of Costa Rica’s gross domestic product. It found that sports fishing was a bigger generator of income to the country than commercial fishing.

The study, conducted in 2009 by The Billfish Foundation, Southwick Associates and the University of Costa Rica, revealed 283,790 anglers visited Costa Rica. It was estimated 22 percent of those tourists visited the country for the exclusive purpose of fishing.

From that $599 million the study also showed sportfishing generated almost $78 million in tax revenues for Costa Rica and 63,000 jobs. In comparison, the effect of commercial fishing for the same species sought by anglers generated approximately $528 million to Costa Rica’s gross domestic product. Commercial fishing contributed $68.6 million in tax revenue and created 57,000 jobs.

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