San Carlos, Mexico



June 25, 2004, Dave Harcourt, Mexico Fisheries In Disarray, San Carlos, Sonora, Mexico:

We just returned from a week of paradise. In summary the fishing stinks but everything else was the usual Nirvana.

There is certainly a cause for alarm. Let me explain.

Mexico regulations are in a state of disarray. It is not just the regulations that are in a confused state it is also enforcement. Essentially there is no enforcement; the regulators simply look the other way. The Panga long line fleets operate as Shark fishermen but are allowed to keep anything they catch including Dorado and Turtles. This is a legal sham of course but there are many mouths that need to be fed somehow.

I have sympathy for the plight of the Mexican fishermen as there are no jobs. To earn a living for one's family one has to resort to whatever it takes and I understand that.

Mexico exports fish and sea food products to many countries but primarily the USA. The statistics are shocking. The amounts in dollars are increasing exponentially. The jump from 2003 to 2004 is 600%. Some products are even disguised as non specified fish that are sold as Mahi Mahi in this country. There were 1,313 tons of fish filets fitting this description in the first four months this year.

The problem stems from the essential collapse of the shrimp market. Wholesale prices are down 50% and Mexican shrimp fishermen cannot compete with Chinese and Japanese farm raised shrimp. Thus there are hundreds of boats and thousands of fishermen without work. The workers have resorted to Panga long lines for an income.

The boat owners are petitioning the government for larger long lines for their boats (as gill nets are now illegal) with the proviso that they must be at least 30 miles out. That would place them in the middle of the Gulfo California (Sea of Cortez)

As commercial fishing has severely damaged the near shore fishery by the Panga fleets they have successfully gotten a green light to trap shellfish and that harvest is underway. It will wipe out that fishery quicker that a wink. The first two months this year there were 177,317 KG of crabmeat exported to the USA alone. This is meat from crabs not the shells. Thus it represents literally millions of crabs. This does not count any domestic consumption or export to other countries.

Last year the Mexicans exported 682,000 KG of canned sardines to the USA alone. The current rate of shipment is 490,000 KG per month! That is a tenfold increase in just one year. Is it any wonder why the sport fishing in the Sea of Cortez is slow? How long before it is a barren sea?

The solution is not regulation, it is jobs. Industry has to provide income to their poor people or they will fish out the Sea of Cortez and I do not blame them.

I will fish Canada and Alaska coasts in the future and hardly notice the change. Mexicans will be the ones who suffer. I will miss the good people of Mexico, the tropical sun and the simple way of life. This is coming and soon, is it now? Even the “experts” don’t know but how slow does the fishing have to become before we go north?

(See "Mexico Fishing News" online for current fishing reports, photos, weather, and water temperatures from San Carlos and other major Mexican sportfishing areas. Vacation travel articles, fishing maps and seasonal calendars, and fishing related information for San Carlos may be found at's main San Carlos page.