Commercial Longlining Restrictions in Panama WatersMarch 20, 2011
Panama to add longlining restrictions… After banning commercial purse seining from its waters in July, the Republic of Panama has taken further steps adding restrictions on longlining for the conservation of its marine life and its socio-economic growth. In letters to Panamanian officials, Ellen Peel, President of The Billfish Foundation (TBF) and Chris Fischer founder of OCEARCH, applauded the government for becoming the first of the seven Central America nations to restrict pelagic longline gear within its waters. The practice of commercial longlining in the region uses hundreds of baited hooks attached to short lengths of line spaced at intervals to main lines. The longliners target swordfish and tuna, but also hook bycatch species including sharks, turtles and recreational billfish such as marlin and sailfish. Panama’s Executive Decree 486 signed by President Ricardo Martinelli on 28 December 2010, prohibits longline vessels of over six tons from operating within the nation’s waters. “This action,” said Ms Peel, “is the latest in a growing trend that makes Panama one of the most proactive, innovative and committed fishery managers in the world and results from the increasing influence of the collective sportfishing community.” OCEARCH’s Fischer who is also on the board of TBF said, “Through this decree the Republic of Panama becomes a global leader in the responsible management of ocean resources and a more established force in the international sportfishing tourism marketplace.” In Panama, Dr Ruben Berrocal, National Secretary of SENACYT (Secretaría Nacional de Ciencia, Tecnología e Innovación) added, “The President’s decision underscores his commitment to preserving our natural resources for future generations; and the economic and scientific benefits these measures produce are well-established. Through sustainable marine management efforts and the careful consideration of important advocacy programs to maintain our game fish – such as those supported by The Billfish Foundation – we are committed to ensure that Panama remains a world-renowned destination where commerce, science and economic productivity can live in harmony.” TBF has been working with the governments of Mexico, Costa Rica and to protect billfish, mainly from overfishing coastal fisheries by commercial interests, while implementing tag and release programs for sportsmen.
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