With the purpose of reactivating the economy in the coastal areas of Costa Rica, through the protection of a marine species for tourism promotion, Deputy Eli Feinzaig presented to the legislative current a new project under Expedient 23,463, * “Law to promote the economic development of the coasts: Declaration of sailfish as a national symbol in economic development, social and cultural of Costa Rica”.*
The reason for this proposal is that sailfish is the main species that motivates sport fishing tourism, an activity that only in 2021 generated $ 520 million for the national GDP, according a study, so its protection against incidental fishing is necessary for the generation of productive chains in tourism, that allow the economic development of the inhabitants of the coasts.
Data from 2023 from the Costa Rican Fisheries Federation (FECOP), showed that the population of this species presented a decrease of up to 70% within the territorial waters of Costa Rica, according to a recent study called “Trends and variability in local abundances of sailfish Istiophorus platyterus in Pacific waters of Costa Rica: Controls and effects on recreational fisheries”.
By declaring the sailfish as a patriotic symbol for the economic, social and cultural development of Costa Rica, the country would eliminate bycatch and its consumption, allowing the recovery of the species so that it can be used as a source of tourist attraction for the development of sport fishing, whose regulation only allows its capture and immediate release.
And, in a study published by the Costa Rican Tourism Institute (ICT) in 2021, it is highlighted that Costa Rica is among the first three countries that foreign tourists choose as a destination to practice sport fishing, coming mainly from the United States, Canada and Europe.
49% of tourists coming to fish travel in groups of 4 persons. Many participate in other activities. The fishermen spend an average of $ 13,450 and each of their companions leave as a profit $ 5,950 from other activities.
That is, if we take as a base a group of five people, where at least one of them will do sport fishing and the other four other activities, we calculate that the investment in Costa Rica at the end of the trip could be $ 37,250. The contrast is evident compared to the 500 colones per kilogram in which the meat of the sailfish is valued in the national ports.
It is from this analysis that Deputy Feinzaig emphasizes the importance of the protection of sailfish and its declaration as a national symbol for the population recovery of the species, since the investment generated by tourists not only benefits the sport fishing industry, but also businesses related to sun and beach activities, hotels, tourist transport, recreational and adventure activities, restaurants, super markets, pharmacies, artisans, clothing stores and cultural activities, according to the ICT in an official letter sent to the legislator’s office after a series of consultations on this issue.
“Sport fishing is a source of sustainable development for coastal areas. After many years of lacking favorable job opportunities, here we are presenting an alternative, a solution for these people who are looking to work with dignity. Just look at the example given by “Las Brujas del Mar” in Chacarita de Puntarenas,” Feinzaig said.
For the head of the PLP fraction, “Brujas del Mar” is a concrete example of success with which it can be reflected that the fishing industry is capable of being transformed.
It is a cooperative of women shrimp peelers, who began to develop artisanal lures for sport fishing, after the prohibition of trawling. After a strong start in the sport fishing activity, now this organization is preparing to recruit more women from the area and promote the products to market them, even outside the country.
“We have really made coastal neighbors wait for a long time for concrete solutions. Other countries already take several steps forward in the protection of sailfish and the promotion of sport and tourist fishing, which, due to their high added value and enormous potential, generate greater profits in economies, “said Feinzaig.
In the process of preparing this project, the deputy found that the United States, Mexico, Guatemala, El Salvador, Nicaragua and Panama, have very well-defined legislation prohibiting fishing of sailfish for human consumption, leaving the specimens as an objective of sport and tourist fishing. Costa Rica is the only country in the region where sailfish are allowed to be marketed up to 10% of the weight of the total catch of a commercial fishing vessel; this proposed law completely prohibits this practice.
“This is not just an economic development proposal for coastal regions. It is an example of how public policies for sustainable development can be generated. It is possible to protect the environment and foster the economic development of coastal and rural communities from this activity,” Feinzaig concluded.