Commercial longlining has returned to the coastal waters of the Sea of Cortez and the IGFA is concerned the new regulation will have a major adverse affect on the fishery there.
Prior to May 15 th when the new marine regulation NOM-029-PESCA-2006 went into effect, commercial vessels were not allowed to fish for or possess marlin, sailfish, dorado and other protected species within 50 miles of the coastline.
"As one of the world's top marlin fisheries and home to the IGFA Offshore World Championship as well as other catch-and-release events, we are extremely concerned about the potential negative impact from this new regulation on the waters surrounding Baja California Sur and Cabo San Lucas, in particular," stated IGFA President Rob Kramer.
Although heralded as a means to protect sharks and rays, the IGFA said the adoption of NOM-029 introduces some significant loopholes that may have devastating effects on marine life. First it allows longline boats less than 30 ft. to fish within 10 miles of the shore and longline vessels between 30 and 80 feet to fish within 15 miles of the shore in the Sea of Cortez (also known as the Gulf of California ) and within 20 miles of the west coast of Baja. By-catch is also not controlled because "incidental" by-catch of sailfish, marlin and other species may be retained and sold in these previously protected areas.
Kramer said he was particularly concerned that the regulation permits pangas and medium sized boats of 22 to 30 ft. in length with as many as six pangas working from a single permit to use longline fishing gear without any restrictions on "by-catch" inside the 50 mile zone that is supposed to be protected.
"The increase in the number of permitted boats fishing coastal waters may translate to as many as 1.5 million hooks fishing in the Sea of Cortez each day," he said.
The 50 mile marine fish conservation zones created over 20 years ago have been a conservation buffer protecting marine resources and deterring or limiting commercial large scale long lining gear. These conservation zones have been Mexico 's only effective regulation to prevent dramatic over-fishing of ocean fish stocks.
Kramer said the IGFA and other conservation organizations are petitioning anglers to demand that NOM-029 be suspended until the following modifications are included.
Prohibit commercial fishing in the 50 mile protected zones
Address by-catch so that game fish may not be incidentally targeted and sold
Regionalize fishing permits to evenly distribute fishing effort
Vigilant enforcement of commercial vessels by the Armada de Mexico
Stock assessment and catch and effort data be utilized in making management decisions
"Millions of dollars each year are spent by tourists from all over the world who come to this area specifically for the abundant fisheries," added Kramer. "The IGFA, along with other international partners are working diligently to repeal this regulation and preserve the robust local economy that relies on sport fishing."
The IGFA is offering anglers a way to voice their opposition to the destructive regulation via a petition letter on its website which is directly e-mailed to Mexican government officials.
That direct link to the IGFA web site is: http://igfa.org/shark_norma.asp