Protecting The Nosara Billfish

By Matt Jorn:

“I’ve heard people say ‘A bad day of fishing is better than a good day at work,'” said Master Capt. William Mendoza with his trademark wry smile, “I’m not really sure I know the difference.”

Capt. Mendoza is a Costa Rica-based charter captain with 30 years of experience. Since 2009 he has run over 250 trips a year on the Wanderer for the FishingNosara team from his home port on the north Pacific coast, making him the busiest charter captain in all of Central America.

This area has become a hot spot for anglers because of the nearby bluewater and virtually non-existent commercial pressure; in fact the Costa Rican government has mandated that all commercial fishing must be done at minimum 60 miles from shore.

The main fear of men like Captain Mendoza is: will this fishery last?

Many have heard stories of Cabo Blanco, Peru and its famous “Marlin Boulevard”… in the 1950s this area produced the most granders in the world, including a 1,560-lb. black marlin catch that is still the world record.

Now Cabo Blanco is a ghost town, due to human conceit and greed. The argument still rages as to why. Some say it was overfishing of the apex predators like marlin and swordfish by sport-fishermen, while others maintain the government opened up the feeder fish, mostly sardines, for overharvesting.

Let’s look at the problem from both ends of the food chain. The Costa Rican government enforces their 60-mile line vigorously and is very strong against unlicensed commercial operations. These efforts maintain a healthy number of feeder fish.

At the apex level, the preservation of billfish has been spearheaded by groups like the International Billfish Foundation and the IGFA. Costa Rica has also taken the lead in this effort by prohibiting sportsmen from removing billfish from the water (no hero shots allowed) and by banning the sale of meat from marlin and sailfish.

“The advantage of catch-and-release billfishing is mainly economical,”
noted Capt. Mendoza. “Essentially, we want to create a market where these apex predators are more valuable swimming in the ocean than they are on the scale at a fish market.”

On average, a full day of marlin fishing costs $900 and provides renewable income for the captains and mates. Conversely, the value of the same fish at an unlicensed fish market can be as low as pennies per pound.

Charter fishing lies somewhere in between the bottom-line driven world of commercial fishing and the fun-loving experience of recreational fishing.

“A good charter trip should be fun, productive and educational, especially for novice anglers,”
said Capt. Mendoza. “These trips can bring together multiple generations, as fishing tactics are handed down from grandfather to father, father to son.”

Capt. Mendoza knows all about that. This season, his 22-year-old son joined him in the mate position on the Wanderer to continue the family legacy. By operating under common-sense regulations, the fishing in Nosara should stay strong for generations to come

“The ocean provides me with a livelihood, and I want to protect her the way she’s protected me. My idea of a perfect day is catch billfish, get a nice photo, set it free, and get the lines back out there again. Clearly that’s not a bad day at work.” concluded Capt. Mendoza.

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