Zihuatanejo Long Line Protest, Ed Kunze, Sept. 5, 2004:
"Longline Situation Heating Up In Zihuatanejo"
This coming Monday (the 6th of September) is a milestone for the fishermen here in Zihuatanejo. The Committee for Sport Fishing is only about a year old, yet has brought the issues of conservation and the local sport fishing community to a total agreement.
This coming Monday, representing all of us captains, deck hands, and boat owners, we are marching on City Hall to protest the lack of Federal, State, and local government’s enforcement of a catch and release program for sailfish.
Unfortunately, for the tourists who will be here this next Monday, there is also a planned work stoppage. This will be interesting, because it is supposed to involve the entire sport fishing fleet, plus the water taxis going to and from Las Gatas Beach and Ixtapa Island. We will see how this develops, as there are meetings tomorrow afternoon with City Hall, etc.
The main purpose of the walk and the work stoppage is to stop the illegal long lining operations going on in the area. I have personally seen long lines, put out by pangas only 15 miles out of Zihuatanejo, with sailfish flopping around or dead. A long ling is a nylon chord, with a hook attached about every 60 feet. The 3 to 4 mile nylon line is baited, then typically left to drift for about 12 hours. Periodically the panga comes by, puts the dead fish in the boat, and baits the hook again. A typical day will yield between 20 and 30 killed sailfish for a panga. The incentive is there to perform this illegal act. At about $15.00 each, it can add up to some serious money for here in Mexico. But, it is indiscriminate killing at its worse. Also killed are sea turtles, birds, or anything that takes the bait.
I have cut sea turtles out of the long lines, and they recovered, plus I have cut loose dead sailfish. But, the reason I and many others are powerless to do anything about the overall situation is because of bribes at the local level, lack of federal or state enforcement, and potential retaliation upon us who try to do something.
However, what a change we are experiencing from 7 years ago when I moved here!! Zihuatanejo fishing was considered a killing ground for sailfish. Every person in Monday’s march has participated in the slaughter of these fish, but they are now beginning to see the resource is limited. Thanks to Tag and Release tournaments and the general awareness of the tourists fishing here, the attitude of the captains have gradually changed.
If you have any questions, please to not hesitate to email me. Ed Kunze IGFA Representative, firstname.lastname@example.org.
I met with Ruben Lopez this morning and we discussed the issues that are boiling right now in Zihuatanejo.
The committee officers consist of Ruben Lopez (captain of the Queen Aranza and formally of the Yellowfin II), Jesus Alverez (owner of the Yellowfin II), Alfredo Vargas (owner and captain of the Esturion II), and Alberto (Chiquis) Hernandez (owner and captain of the Intruza).
This is the first time in my 7 years of living here I have seen the sport fishing fleet in agreement as to the protection of our future stocks of sailfish, and the protection of the future of the sport fishing industry here in Zihuatanejo. Even though several of us have been pushing for the release of the billfish here for years, it is almost like this year everybody was hit on the head and woke up.
The big wake-up call has come through the increase of pangas fishing with 3 or 4 mile long lines, and getting away with it. Ruben tells me there are as many as 30 pangas here that are documented as having worked a long line. When you realize a panga with a long line set does not have a really decent day until he has killed at least 20 sailfish, the numbers can be staggering.
In all honesty, I believe there really are only about 5 pangas setting their lines out on a regular basis, but it still adds up to an absolute minimum of 300 sailfish a week!
Here are the issues:
1) Eliminate the pangas running long lines. They are currently being given permits for shark fishing by our local authorities. But Hell, sharks were cleaned out of this area years ago. We have not sport caught or even seen a shark here in over three years. 2) Restrict the sport fishing, and commercial "tuna" fishermen boats to 1 killed sailfish a day.
The daily sport fishing boats are as guilty as anyone here. Past history has ingrained the game fish stocks are unlimited. Hell, they hear stories from their Dad's and other old timers, and every now and then get to sample some of that kind of fishing themselves. It has been a long road to convincing them otherwise.
But, not helping the situation are "Gringo" bargain hunters who want to get a panga below the going rate. These people think they can bargain and get the same service, therefore they are smarter than other fishermen. I hear it and see it all the time. The reality is when you hire a panga at below rate, he must make up the difference, He must either sell the fish, or consume less gas. It is a no win situation.
In a way you have to sympathize with the commercial panga tuna fishermen. If they do not catch a fish to sell, they do not have money to buy gas to fish tomorrow. But, to go out and target sailfish when the tuna and dorado are not around, is a crime.
3) There is no phone number or agency for us to call in and report a violation. Retaliation here is a serious factor on people who would want to report, and without an agency to help apprehend violators, they go free.
4) The final issue is a separate situation within itself. However, it is what is uniting the pangas who do the taxi services to Las Gatas Beach and Ixtapa Island, and also the store owners in the down town area.
Puerto Mio, a very small private marina in Zihuatanejo Bay, has the ear of some very ranking officials in the Federal Government. They are proposing to build a Cruiser terminal, using public funds for private purposes and gain.
The cruise ship lines are very much big business and are very much "one way" in their thinking. If the proposed terminal gets built, or any portion thereof, the ecological effects to Zihuatanejo Bay would be devastating.
There basically would be no gain to the City of Zihuatanejo, and a loss of income for the small shops in the downtown and principle beach areas of town.
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