The Arenal Area Magazine

Ms. Chinchilla asked to investigate fishing incident


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The high seas encounter between a U.S. registered sportsfishing boat and a Venezuelan commercial purse seiner is the third major incident in two years, according to The Billfish Foundation. The foundation said that in a letter to President Laura Chinchilla and others regarding what it called an attack on the Silver-Rod-O Aug. 1 off Playa Garza in the Pacific.

Gary Cater photo La Rosa Mistica

The Florida-based foundation urged Ms. Chinchilla to initiate an investigation into the incident and take appropriate action against the captain and owners of La Rosa Mistica, the Venezuelan boat involved.

The foundation letter, over the signature of its president, Ellen Peel, said the sportfishing organization was aware of 10 vessels that have been attacked by foreign flagged purse seiners licensed by Costa Rica. It said that in June 2008 nine vessels were similarly attacked.

The organization said it had complained to the Instituto Costarricense de Pesca y Acuacultura without success. Among those getting a copy of the letter is Luis Dobles, executive president of the government fishing agency. “In the past our requests to INCOPESCA to take action against the vessel initiating such dangerous and illegal attacks met with no positive action,” the letter said.

“We fear that unless these purse seine vessels are made to understand that such behavior will not be tolerated by the Costa Rican government. Continued, such actions will ultimately lead to injury or death at sea,” the letter added.

The owner of the Silver-Rod-O, Gary Carter, said that he and some friends were fishing amid a group of spinner dolphin. Such groups tell fishermen that there are schools of tuna beneath the water.

“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,” Carter said in an e-mail that was the basis of an article Friday. “The helicopter then began making passes over us, as it circled the dolphin school. As the seiner came closer and began setting its 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.” Carter took photographs.

The goal of the commercial fishing boat captain, of course, was to drive the sportsfishing boat away so it would not interfere with the Venezuelan net.

The letter identified Carter as a foundation member and a part-time Costa Rican resident. Carter told a reporter he had been fishing in Costa Rican waters since the 1980s. The foundation also cited its survey that showed that sport fishing tourism contributes over $599 million annually to the Costa Rican economy. That is a sum more than commercial fishing, it said.

The foundation identified the owner of La Rosa Mistica as Ingopesca, S.A. The firm is located in Punto Fijo, Venezuela.

The Venezuelan boat is recognized as a commercial tuna operation by the Inter-American Tropical Tuna Commission. It is believed to have its home port either in Panamá or Perú.

The foundation said to the president: “We urge you to take swift and convincing action to end this dangerous sort of action at sea immediately. We believe that such irresponsible behavior does not warrant the trust placed in a purse seine vessel by authorizing and licensing them to fish in your national waters.”

Among others, a copy of the letter was sent to Anne Slaughter Andrew, the U.S. ambassador here.

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