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Costa Rica has mandated circle hooks for sportfishing. The IGFA's Mike Loach looks at this and other regulations aimed at sportfishermen and concludes this and other U.S. oriented regulations fail to address the real problems of offshore fisheries. Read Loach's editorial below.

Fishery managers have long been quick to regulate recreational anglers and far too slow to focus on the real cause of over fishing which as they well know is commercial fishing.Sport fishers take about 2 or 3 percent of the fish that commercials do, but it seems we are the easy targets to regulate.

Recent examples of what seems to many of us as regulations simply for the sake of regulations are these.

U.S. sport fishers are limited to landing a total of 250 blue and white marlin per year in the Atlantic.We account for 2 tenths of 1% of white marlin mortality, and not much more for blues.Commercial fishers, mostly longliners, kill the rest.

  • As of March 2003, all U.S. anglers fishing for sailfish, marlin, tuna or swordfish in the Atlantic must buy a federal permit even if we intend to release every fish we catch.
  • If we land any of the above species we must report it to the federal government within 24 hours.This is required even if it is landed in a foreign country, such as the Bahamas or Venezuela.
  • Recreational anglers are limited to one swordfish per angler per trip.We landed perhaps 550 swords in 2002, which is less than half of 1 percent of the U.S. quota.At the same time, the commercial quota was increased.The national Marine Fisheries Service estimates that U.S. longliners threw back dead 27,000 juvenile swordfish, yet no new restrictions were placed on them.
  • Costa Rica just passed a law making it mandatory for recreational anglers to use only circle hooks with live or dead bait.This rule does not apply to commercial fishermen whose bycatch and targeted fishing probably accounts for over 99% of the billfish mortality in Costa Rica.This rule was supported by some sport fishers.I question why they aren't focusing on the real problem instead of bringing more meaningless regulations on sport fishers.

None of these regulations will have any measurable conservation benefit, most will have virtually no enforcement, but all of them cost the government lots of money to create and oversee.All this effort should be directed towards those that have depleted all our big game fish and it's not recreational anglers.

We, as sport fishers, are too complacent when it comes to being regulated against.We should demand that the government show that any new recreational regulations will have some conservation benefits.

I use circle hooks for sailfish as a personal choice.I donft think it should be a law and I donft believe recreational anglers with our strong catch and release ethic are a threat to the health of billfish stocks.Let's stop accepting all these meaningless regulations.Enough already!

Uploaded: 2/21/2004