Fishing groups praise Panamá for prohibiting longliners

After banning commercial purse seining from its waters in July, the Republic of Panamá has taken further steps adding restrictions on long line fishing for the conservation of its marine life and its socio-economic growth.

Commercial longlining ships will now be banned in the waters of the Central American nation from setting its lines which attract unwanted species like billfish, turtles and sharks.

In letters to Panamanian officials, Ellen Peel, president of The Billfish Foundation and Chris Fischer founder of OCEARCH, applauded the government for becoming the first of the seven Central America nations to restrict longline gear within its waters. The practice of commercial long lining 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 sharks, turtles and recreational billfish like marlin and sailfish.

Panama’s Executive Decree 486 signed by President Ricardo Martinelli Dec. 28 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.

“After prohibiting tuna purse seining in July, the signing of these two agreements acts directly on two of the greatest sources of overfishing of marlin and tuna species while creating appropriate sustainable management plans for billfish and other popular game fish vital to growing sportfishing and tourism in the Central America region,” she said.
OCEARCH’s Fischer, who is also on the board of The Billfish Foundation, said “through this decree the Republic of Panamá becomes a global leader in the responsible management of ocean resources and a more established force in the international sportfishing tourism marketplace.”

His organization is a research non-profit based in Washington, D.C.

In Panamá, Ruben Berrocal, national secretary of the Secretaría Nacional de Ciencia, Tecnología e Innovación, said the president’s decision underscores his commitment to preserving natural resources for future generations and the economic and scientific benefits these measures produce. “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 Panamá remains a world-renowned destination where commerce, science and economic productivity can live in harmony.”

The Billfish Foundation, through a 2009 agreement with the Organization of Fisheries and Aquaculture for the Isthmus of Central America, developed a management plan for sportfishing in the seven nation region assisting each nation in developing appropriate national conservation goals to enhance sportfishing tourism. It includes recreational fishing monitoring and data collecting programs using tags and catch reports to gather vital statistics for decision makers to better understand the dynamics of sportfishing as an important economic tool.

The Foundation has been working with the governments of Mexico, Costa Rica and Peru to protect billfish, mainly from overfishing coastal fisheries by commercial interests, while imp

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