Did you know that the United States is the largest importer of billfish meat? As an avid angler and a citizen of the United States, I was fairly shocked and dismayed when I learned of the USA’s appetite for billfish, given the many options of sustainable seafood already available in the USA.
Currently it is legal in the United States to import or sell Pacific billfish commercially harvested, but it is illegal to import or sell Atlantic billfish. As a result, Pacific billfish stocks are likely under heavy pressure due to commercial harvest, and you guessed it…the Costa Rica fishing industry, most notably the sport fishing sector, is impacted. In addition, it is very difficult to be able to determine if billfish meat is truly from the Pacific, creating an opportunity for illegal import and sale of Atlantic billfish in the United States.
However, help for Pacific billfish is within grasp. The Billfish Conservation Act Of 2011, aimed at making commercial import and sale of Pacific billfish unlawful in the continental United States, is in the queue in both the House (bill HR 2706) and the Senate (bill S 1451). But little time remains in this year’s Congressional session, and we are facing the prospect of a lame duck Congress after the November elections. If you are a US citizen, contact your senator and/or representative now and voice your support for Senate bill S 1451 and House bill 2706. The Costa Rica fishing industry will likely benefit if this bill is passed, reducing commercial fishing pressure of billfish and paving the way for healthy numbers of Sailfish and Marlin to be fought and released in the Pacific (and eliminating any possibility of illegal harvest and sale of Atlantic billfish, to boot).
If passed as a law, the Billfish Conservation Act has the potential to positively impact all billfish stocks globally, not just your favorite Costa Rica fishing hotspot. I sent an email to one of my Senators yesterday on the bill, and she replied within 24 hours with a positive response. The bill is a bi-partisan effort and has sponsors and support from both parties in Congress, but our Congress members just need a little prodding to get the act passed this year.
Finally, Pacific billfish absolutely needs our voice right now to be heard! So get involved! Send an email or letter to your Senators and your local US Representative encouraging them to get the Billfish Conservation Act on the Senate and House floors for a vote.