Thursday, February 12, 2009

Locals Welcome Increased Cabo Sportfishing Enforcement

There have been increasing reports of boat boarding and inspections by the Mexican officials up and down the Baja peninsula. It seems that they are checking to determine that everyone on board possesses a fishing license and that all anglers are adhering to the Mexican fishing regulations. Some members of the sportfishing community have suggested that the ongoing opposition to NOM-029 has angered Mexican officials and that they are retaliating with increased enforcement.

Though it’s easy to draw that conclusion, it appears that the ongoing disagreement between commercial and sportfishing interests has simply increased the scrutiny by Mexican government agencies. These Mexican agencies (SAGARPA, Conapesca, and the Oficinas de Pesca) seem to be intent on increasing enforcement of the resource regulations for both groups.

Baja Sur has Fonmar (Fund for the Protection of Marine Resources) founded in 2005 that serves as “the eyes and the ears” of the enforcement bodies. Created by the twenty year old Baja Sportfishing Union to ensure funds collected from fishing licenses in Baja Sur would be used for enforcement, research and other local fisheries’ projects. A group of sportfishing, tourism and conservation interests supervise Fonmar, along with the state and local government officials.
Fonmar recently revealed that a few of the hundreds of charter boats leaving the Cabo San Lucas Marina have been boarded and they warned that there were “licensing infractions.” Two boats were decommissioned with warnings and at least one vessel was impounded.

George Landrum, owner of Fly Hooker Sportfishing in Cabo San Lucas, confirmed that random boardings are occurring frequently both at sea and upon the return to the Marina. The officials are inspecting for licenses and other violations, such as over-limits and the filleting of fish onboard. Infractions discovered resulted in a number of vessels being chained to the dock, their fishing gear confiscated and the owners have been heavily fined for the infractions.

Tracy Ehrenberg, Pisces Fleet also located in Cabo, added, “As Cabo San Lucas sportfishing expands, it is important that the regulations be followed. There has to be a level playing field where everyone follows the same rules. “

So is all of the increased enforcement just a Cabo San Lucas phenomenon? Well, sort of, according to Eric Brictson, Gordo Banks Pangas, San Jose Del Cabo.
Eric says, “Enforcement is slowly increasing, though some people still do not follow the regulations. Unfortunately, some inspectors allow varying bag limits and some areas at the East Cape licenses are not even sold on a regular basis and the bag limits are rarely enforced.”
There is a real need for consistency and the rules must be clarified in all areas, not just the more populated regions.

In Cabo San Lucas purchasing a fishing license is relatively simple. Three authorized Fonmar license inspectors are located at the main dock in the Marina, at the Hacienda Hotel and at Puerto Los Cabos from 6:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. daily. You can also obtain a license at the Oficinas de Pesca (a SAGARPA office) across from the Mar de Cortez Hotel on the second floor. Hours are Tuesday through Friday from 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.

With the exception of Cabo San Lucas and San Jose, the most consistent criticism is the inability to purchase a license. As Jonathan Roldan, owner of Tailhunter International in La Paz explains, “In La Paz, it’s a four day process at the SAGARPA office. There are a number of forms to fill out for each person at SAGARPA. Then you have to pay for the licenses at the bank, after which you return to the SAGARPA office and show them your receipt. Then you fill out another form to get the actual licenses.”

This week, the rate of exchange is 14.63 pesos to the U.S. dollar; the price is $9.30 U.S. for a daily license (136 pesos). A weekly license is $19.41 U.S. (284 pesos), a monthly license is $27.89 U.S. (408 pesos), and a yearly license is $36.30 U.S. (531 pesos).

More details about Mexican Fishing Regulations is available in English at .