April 19, 2012
My friend Paco Saca, an I.G.F.A. representative in El Salvador and a world-travelling angler, is passionate about his fishing and just as passionate about protecting billfish--no matter where they may be. He sends word of a recent bust in Guatemala of illegal sailfish kills and a subsequent apprehension of guilty fishermen, and also, of a case of a Texas seafood house selling blue marlin.
"About three weeks ago," Saca wrote in an email, which I received this morning, "I reported sailfish being killed by longliners in Guatemala... yesterday I got some great news! The Guatemalan Guardia Naval was inspecting boats at the port and arrested 3 fishermen for illegaly killing sailfish. After spending a day in jail each of them had to pay a US $100.00 fine to get out of jail. The boat and gear and fish were all confiscated and will not be returned to the owner until a fine of U.S. $7,000.00 is paid. It may just be a drop in the bucket but it's good to see even the slightest bit of enforcement in Guatemala. At this time the boat is still impounded until they can raise the money to get it out."
As Saca says, even if discouragement comes on a case-by-case basis, one crew at a time, slowly protections will build for the immensely valuable resources of billfish stocks off of Guatemala and other Central American nations.
In the case of the marlin for sale in Texas, Saca relates:
"The picture I sent is the one my nephew took at the fish house... Quality Seafood in Austin, Texas. Blue marlin steaks labeled as produce of the U.S. A couple of phone calls have been made and the clerk said it was originally from Florida, then the manager picked up and said they had the proper papers and that it was completely legal to sell. I believe they are not well informed and many fish houses don't even know the ban exists."
It is illegal to sell or import Atlantic blue marlin into the U.S. It is, however, legal to import and sell blue marlin from Pacific or Indian Oceans--and perhaps that is where the marlin in the Texas shop came from.
I totally respect Paco, and I've been on his boat in El Salvador and seen his passion for fishing and the sea, and I love that he and his colleagues are keeping a watch out up and down the line in all the Americas for the protection of these incredible species.