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Mexican authorities at a loss to control massive illegal fishing

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
September 23rd, 2012
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

While Mexico continues its largely unsuccessful war on drugs, the issue of illegal fishing there has been put on the back burner. An estimated 30 to 50 percent of the fish caught here are illegally obtained, Fishermen catch fish out of season, and use banned techniques and methods, fish over quota and man boats without a license. Mexican authorities have thrown up their hands in regards to fish poaching which has affected fisheries, the environment and incomes.

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - "It's a sector that is difficult to regulate," Rodrigo Gallegos, head of the Mexican Institute for Competitiveness says. The institute is about to publish a report on productivity, regulations and the environmental impact of fishing. "In practice, there is free access, and it is difficult to control the illegal flow of trade."

Mexico has become one of the main hubs of drug trafficking in Latin America and the world, and where 90 percent of crimes go unsolved.

According to the National Commission for Fishing and Aquaculture, illegal fishing has resulted in more than 1.64 million tons of fish, worth $1.28 billion dollars, more than 800 million of which were exported.

Mexico is lush with extensive areas of continental shelf in the Gulf of Mexico, the Caribbean, and the Pacific Ocean, as well as nearly 20,000 square kilometers of coastal lagoons, estuaries, lakes, reservoirs and rivers, all of them rich in fish stocks.

Many species are over-exploited due to unregulated fishing. Stocks of shrimp, sardines and tuna have been drastically over-fished, according to the 2012 National Fishing Charter.

Global environmental group Greenpeace put red snapper, shrimp, grouper, tuna, sardines, sharks and rays on its Red List of most endangered species in Mexico in 2010.

"The situation is conflict-ridden; there are many people interested in a scarce resource, and the policies governing access to them are unclear," Juan Aceves, of the marine conversation program run by the NiparajŠ Natural History Society says. The program promotes protection of biodiversity in the Baja California peninsula in northwest Mexico.

The laws are not enforced "and there is not a strong culture of respecting laws and regulations in the fishing industry," he says.

The institute recommends producing reliable data, modifying the subsidy for boat fuel, and reforming the fishing law to strengthen environmental practices.

Mexico's contribution to the global fish market is highly significant. The Pacific coast accounts for 80 percent of fishing production, the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean represent 18 percent, and rivers and lakes represent the remaining two percent.

In order to combat this ongoing problem, bans have been placed on species like shrimp, octopus and shark, in addition to the replacement of boats and the cancellation of permits.

But the impact of these actions is not significant. More than 1,000 fishing permits were issued for shrimp and shark last year, and only 46 were cancelled.

A report published two years ago by the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization has called for clear fishing regulations.

In summation, according to those in the fishing industry, the chief issues today include: too many boats, the capture of immature specimens, bans that are not enforced and a lack of alternative employment opportunities in coastal communities.

A version of this story was first published by Inter Press Service news agency.

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