Thursday, October 30, 2008

Sportfishing in Los Cabos Triangle Yields Mega-Bucks

The real question seems to be, do these local, state and national leaders really give a crap? If they did they could simply walk around the marina in Cabo and figure it out for themselves.

Mexican Politicians Ignore Marine Resource Revenue...Again

For many years sport fishermen have been convinced that a substantial portion of the tourist money spent in southern Baja came from the sport fishing visitor. Thanks to The Billfish Foundation (TBF), it is no longer just conjecture. A new report commissioned by TBF presents irrefutable confirmation of the source and amount of money being spent by Los Cabos anglers.

According to the report, fishing in the Los Cabos area, loosely defined as East Cape, San Jose del Cabo, and Cabo San Lucas, is a billion dollar industry!

The TBF study shows that in 2007, 354,013 people, most of whom were international visitors, fished in Los Cabos. While in Los Cabos, they spent an estimated $633.6 million U.S. for lodging, charter boats, food, transportation, tackle, fuel, etc. These expenditures started a series of cascading economic effects in the local economy:

· 24,426 jobs were created

· $245.5 million U.S. was received in local and federal tax revenues

· $ 1.125 billion U.S. went into the total economic activity

“A good way to view these impacts is to consider that, if everyone who fished in Los Cabos had not visited in 2007, the regional economy would have been $1.125 billion U.S. smaller,” said Rob Southwick, lead economist in the research effort.

“That means there would have been 24,426 fewer jobs, and the government coffers would have been poorer by $245.5 million U.S.”

Visitors who fish there provide an estimated 24.1 percent of the total Los Cabos economy. A job is supported for every $18,156 U.S. in retail sales. Dollars spent by anglers generated $1.78 in economic activity in the region and every visiting angler generated $721.99 U.S. in local and federal tax revenues.

In addition, the Los Cabos anglers’ expenditures generated $145 million U.S. to Mexico’s Gross Domestic Product; 10,469 additional jobs were created elsewhere in Mexico and $75 million U.S. in taxes were added to the federal coffers. This income has become a significant provider of jobs and new dollars to Mexico’s economy.

The report revealed that though this area has become a major North American tourist destination in recent years driven heavily by its world-class striped marlin fishery, the most targeted species of interest for sport fishermen were dorado, registering nearly 95% with a success catch rate of over 81%. Marlin was second at nearly 90% with a success rate of over 82% and tuna was the third most popular at over 86% with a 75% success rate among the 10 species listed.

Ironically, the dorado, a species which under Mexican fisheries law is supposed to be strictly relegated for sport fishing, has for years attracted the illegal commercial long-lining and netting interests in the Sea of Cortez (Gulf of California) waters. A controversial new regulation, NOM-029, allows for the “incidental” harvest of billfish, dorado and other species within Mexico’s 24 year-old conservation zones. Recent seizures of illegal dorado catches in the tons has also produced headlines in Mexican newspapers and brought attention to the commercial “fishing mafia.”

TBF has had a presence in the Baja Sur region since 2002. Dr. Russell Nelson, TBF’s chief scientist, along with Guillermo Alvarez, TBF’s Mexican Conservation Director, explained “the independent report was necessary to provide tangible evidence to local, state and national leaders of the economic importance of Los Cabos fisheries.”

The real question seems to be, do these local, state and national leaders really give a crap?

So far in spite of all the best efforts of Marinas de Mexico, The Los Cabos Hotel Association, the many different groups like IGFA, The Billfish Foundation, Seawatch, countless businesses, clubs, communities, tourist organizations, the private sector and interested individuals, the Mexican leadership continues to ignore the importance of protecting the God given resource Mexico enjoys.

The complete report in English and Spanish with all survey results is available online at the TBF web site: .

My email address is .

Friday, October 10, 2008

Baja “True Grit”

A family’s recovery after a devastating life changing accident on Mex 1

Larry Cooper’s Baja story began with the common denominator of many…a love of fishing. It would be many years later that a tragic turn of events would demand tremendous courage from him and his family. He would have to muster his “true grit” to continue to enjoy the fishing he loved.

His first visit to Los Barriles in 1978 introduced him to the Sea of Cortez with its extraordinary and easily accessible fishery. Quickly he, his wife Terri and their toddler sons, Erin and Brian, fell into the routine of making the long trek from Sun Valley, Idaho every spring, towing their 24’ Skipjack and camping in a motor home at the famous Martin Verdugos Beach Resort. He recalls, “I was clueless as to the amount of big game species that surrounded Bahia de las Palmas. I was hooked, literally!!”

For the next decade the Cooper family piled one exciting Baja spring trip on another. Like many other families before them, in 1990 they purchased beachfront lots up the beach from Verdugos and they moved on to the next phase of their Baja adventure. Soon they were in full construction mode building a home to their specifications.Their motor home was replaced with a Suburban equipped with a trailer so they could haul supplies down from the states. As construction continued, the long and tedious trips back and forth from Sun Valley became more frequent to provide material not available in Baja.

The trips were uneventful until March 20th, 1992. As was their normal routine when driving down, they spent the night at Guerrero Negro. The following morning about 9:30 a.m., Larry and his wife resumed their trip down Mex 1.

An hour later, just north of VizcaĆ­no, Larry had the cruise control set at 45 mph and Terri was resting in the back seat. In the rearview mirror he could see a Mexican bus approaching rapidly. Staying as far to the right as he could in a no passing zone, he maintained his speed.

Instead of slowing, the bus driver did the unthinkable and went roaring around the suburban forcing it off the road. When the dust cleared the SUV had rolled and was on its collapsed roof. Larry’s neck was shattered just above his shoulders. Rescuers, who came to his aid, pulled Larry from the wreck resulting in paralysis.

Unharmed, a dazed Terri marshaled all the courage she had to go through the process to have Larry evacuated back to the U.S. as quickly as possible. Once there, she organized a medical team dedicated to assisting him in regaining as much mobility as he could.

A pool hoist is used to load the wheelchair confined angler onto the boat or even up to the flying bridge.

For Larry and Terri, recovery seemed agonizingly slow as they both adjusted to the life changes that were forced on them in that instant on a remote Baja highway. With toughness and determination Larry fought his way back and in less than a year he was ready to return to his beloved Baja.

A rod stabilizer to allow a handicapped angler to hold the fishing rod.

During the year he spent in physical therapy, recovering, the house in Los Barriles was completed with wider doors, roll-under sink, and a roll-in shower to accommodate his wheelchair.

Special rod and harness provide the additional support needed for the angler to battle the big fish regardless of their handicap.
Fishing had brought Larry to Baja in the first place. Wheelchair or not he was determined to continue to pursue his passion for sportfishing.

Larry lands sierra on equipment he specially designed since his accident.

Over the next five years, proving his ‘true grit’, Larry designed and developed the components necessary to allow him to fish successfully from a 16’ aluminum boat, powered with a 25 hp outboard. He adapted a no grip rail plate with Velcro so he could steady the rod with his damaged left hand, while he reeled with his right. He added a standard harness and a lockdown device for his wheelchair. These innovations allowed him to become a triumphant, diehard quadriplegic fisherman catching marlin, dorado, tuna, and giant grouper.

For the next few years Larry, the diehard fisherman, fine tuned the apparatuses he had developed which allowed him to continue to fish. He constantly tinkered with his boat, as well, making it as wheel chair friendly as possible. Of course, a sixteen foot platform provided only a limited amount of space to accommodate him, his wheel chair and a buddy, and the afternoon chop was very uncomfortable aboard the smaller boat.

In the time between bites, Larry began to daydream about the ideal boat for someone confined to a wheelchair.

First was the physical attributes of the boat itself; a flat deck was necessary…one without engine boxes in the cockpit. Also needed was a boat with a low step or no-step into the salon, passageways wide enough for a wheelchair, and an accessible bridge.

Soon those ‘between the bite daydreams’ morphed into a rough draft of specifications. Larry and his wife, Terri, began poring over boating magazines and searched the Internet for just the right boat. Slowly the search narrowed from 100’s of yachts to a 37’ Egg Harbor, a boat that closely matched the requirements with its 100+ square foot cockpit, flush deck, low 3 inch step into the salon and passageways wide enough for a wheelchair to pass.

But there were no Egg Harbors of that size to be found on the West Coast. After an exhausting five trips to the East Coast to sea trial various boats during the next eighteen months, Larry and Terri finally found THE perfect boat located in Freeport, NY. Used as a floating condo, the boat had never been fished, and was basically in its original showroom condition, complete with new engines and electronics!

Once Larry had taken delivery of the Egg Harbor, he recruited a crew among his friends and wheelchair-bound, Larry and his crew headed the 1,278 miles down the Inter Coastal Waterway to Ft. Lauderdale, FL. The boat, En Caliente, was then loaded onto a freighter and taken through the Panama Canal to its destination, Ensenada, in July 2007. Larry and the crew met the boat and then brought the En Caliente to its new home at East Cape.

Larry equipped the boat with a pool hoist for loading the wheelchair, with him seated in it, onto the boat or up onto bridge. He added lock down devices for a fighting chair or wheel chair and other equipment and devices to accommodate disabled anglers. Last, but not least, the boat was equipped with an in-transom live bait tank and tuna tubes.

Larry and Terri have also completed a guest suite that is completely wheelchair friendly. They have an ATV that is available for the disabled as well.

And Larry keeps dreaming. As one dream is fulfilled, he and Terri are already planning the next one. Their current dream is to provide fishing trips for disabled anglers, veterans and other disabled or handicapped troubled young adults. They hope to reveal the many exciting opportunities available to those who are confined to a wheelchair, including the excitement of big game fishing. Their goal is to encourage others to dream and find a way to fulfill their dreams.

Wheelchair equipped with custom lockdown device to allow angler to remain steady while fighting a fish.

It is hard to imagine that sixteen years ago Larry was being drug out from under a thrashed suburban while a frightened and forlorn Terri looked on…each of them facing what appeared to be insurmountable obstacles, and each of them encouraging the other when one became discouraged.

Today, Larry and Terri’s enthusiasm for life is infectious. It is easy to get caught up as they both excitedly outline their plans for the future.

Christopher Reeve once said, “A hero is an ordinary individual who finds the strength to persevere and endure in spite of overwhelming obstacles”. I think both Larry and Terri qualify!

Thursday, October 2, 2008

SPOT…Right On

The unit is simplicity itself with only four clearly labeled buttons that activate Emergency, Help, Check-in and Tracking.

If you travel in Baja, reliable communication is always an issue. Cell phones do not work throughout certain areas. For example, my Verizon works great in the Cabo area, La Paz and as far down as San Quintin on Mex 1, but it does NOT work in Magdalena Bay, East Cape or many of the remote areas that I visit. So now, I carry a Mexican cell phone as well in order to stay in touch. My other option up to this point in time has been to carry a Sat phone, which is very expensive.

When I spotted SPOT at the Fred Hall Show earlier this year I was intrigued. According to the person manning the booth, SPOT is a Satellite Personal Tracker-the next generation of PLB’s (Personal Locator Beacon).

The small, waterproofed and rugged 6 ounce handheld unit seemed to be packed with features that would solve some of the Baja communication problems I encounter. With a simple press of a button, I could determine my GPS location and send it along with a pre-programmed message to the contacts I designate over commercial communications satellites – in real time.

The unit is simplicity itself with only four clearly labeled buttons that activate Emergency, Help, Check-in and Tracking.

· 911-button notifies GEOS International Emergency Response Center of life-threatening events. The GEOS Emergency Response Center will contact public response agencies around the world, and call your emergency contacts to keep them informed of rescue progress. GEOS works with all rescue agencies from the Air Force Rescue Coordination Center and Coast Guard to local urban and rural 9-1-1 call centers. Optionally, GEOS will also dispatch private rescue agencies in those countries where public resources won’t do. Spot continues to send a message and location update every 5 minutes until cancelled.

· Help-button sends a text message to the cell phones and an email with a link to Google Maps to designated contacts indicating that you need help and your location. The message and location updates every 5 minutes for an hour or until cancelled.

· OK\Check in-button informs your contacts of your location and that you’re okay. It then saves your location for later viewing on the SPOT web service using Google Maps.

· OK\Check in-button held down for 5 seconds will activate tracking. Then it updates your outdoor position every 10 minutes to your SPOT web account, which in turn updates a Google map that can be accessed by your SPOT team.

SPOT service will also create a web page which will provide tracking information easily accessed by anyone you choose by simply sending them the link.

So far the unit has worked perfectly during my Road Trekker trips. Allowing my team to monitor my progress as I travel and even confirm where I have stopped for the night.

The uses for SPOT are limited only by your imagination. After seeing my unit in operation, several of my friends decided they needed one…but for different reasons. One wanted to use it when he was fishing off of San Diego. With the SPOT unit, he can let his family and friends know he’s okay when he can’t get through on his cell or VHF. Another thought SPOT would be an ideal backup at his home in Baja if he lost power and telephone service during a hurricane. With the unit, he can notify his friend’s world-wide that he’s okay.

The SPOT is one more inexpensive electronic communication tool that is a welcome addition for anyone who travels anywhere…in remote locations, on land or water.

I now carry my SPOT on ALL of my trips and have set up a special link which will demonstrate how SPOT works. I will display my travels on my next Baja trip. If you would like to see how it works. Go to the upper left hand corner to locate the SPOT link. If you are interested, bookmark the page and you can monitor my Road Trekkers Travels when I leave on my next road trip in early October.

Enthusiasm is my friend; my email is