Passport to Fish?

Fishing Vessel Outer Limits out of Mission Bay, San Diego

Captain’s Corner

By Captain Paul Fischer

The 2015 fishing is off to the strongest start in over a decade. Yellowtail are swarming the coastline and offshore islands. Bluefin are more abundant now than anyone can remember and in typical fashion the recreational sport fishing fleet has yet another curve ball thrown at the beginning of tourist season. This particular year we have been thrown two.

It seems like every year in May the Mexican government comes up with a new process rule or fee all designed to keep tourism out of their country.  First, it is now illegal for a recreational angler to catch and keep a Bluefin tuna in Mexican waters. The U.S. under fire from environmental groups and reacting on sub-par data collection and inaccurate stock assessments have decided to potentially cut the limit from 10 fish per person a day to 2 Bluefin tuna per person per day.  Now bear in mind these are not the same fish in the Atlantic or East Coast. This is about the stock of Pacific Bluefin tuna, which are entirely different.

Rather than follow the U.S., Mexico decided to completely close Bluefin tuna to recreational angling, but still allow the large super seiners to net these fish and keep them in pens to sell to Japan. Granted, they did reduce their quota.  Tuna caught on rod and reel are a sustainable resource. Just because we see fish, jumping or with our fish finders does not mean we can entice them bite. We are experiencing this now off our coast. There is more Bluefin tuna off our Coast than ever before and if you looked at the fleet’s fish counts for the past month you would think I am lying. The U.S. does still allow Bluefin to be caught commercially, but the quota was also reduced and is considerably smaller than Mexico’s.

What we need is an accurate stock assessment of the South Pacific Bluefin tuna stocks. Many of the sport boats have volunteered to gather catch and size data from their catches.  We depend on safe and responsible fishing practices and the right to catch and obtain fish for our clients.

The next curve ball was Mexico requiring passports to fish within their 12 mile zone. In 2013 Mexico started requiring FMM’s (Mexican Tourist Card) to fish their coastline which cost around $25. This is on top of a Mexican fishing license which can be purchased yearly or per day. I.D. cards were valid to obtain an FMM until recently and without warning Mexico issued a passport requirement. This curve ball affected tourism immediately and I was shocked at the amount of our recreational anglers who had never obtained a passport.

The passport process generally takes about six weeks and although it has affected the fleet short term many of our clients from enjoyed fishing the Coronado islands have started the passport process. It will affect a lot of our out of state tourists who visit San Diego without a passport or even know that it is now required.

Stay tuned.


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