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Posted on Aug 25, 2009 in Top Shots
All That Glitters

For decades, sport fishermen from all over the world (particularly, of course, the United States) have converged on the remarkable Sea of Cortez, enjoying the abundance of marine life introduced to the public 60 years ago in John Steinbeck's chronicle, The Log from the Sea of Cortez.

One of the big and enduring draws to anglers: the vast numbers of dorado (dolphin or mahi) that pour into this yawning gulf between Mexico's mainland and its Baja peninsula. Those dorado are also a factor drawing in large numbers of billfish and big yellowfin, which also find them tasty meals.

A starkly revealing and chilling set of three short exposes now on YouTube (below) shows why dorado may soon become merely an occasional catch - and how Baja's coastal sport-fishing industry may lose one of its most compelling motivators for anglers to visit and spend great (by local standards) sums.

"Oro de Cortez" - the gold of Cortez - is about dorado and how Mexico is squandering this resource and perhaps largely the future of its great sea, "a sea of agony" in the words of the videos' narrator. Stark footage and candid interviews with fishermen, scientists and government officials won't give you any feel-good moments but these three reports should be watched. In them may lie some hope for change, while there's still time to save one of the world's most dynamic, beautiful game fish in one of the world's most idyllic settings.

The main culprits? Same old story: greed and longlines. Combine them and it spells devastation for things that eat baited hooks. That includes turtles, by the way. The videos suggest that thousands are dying in the Sea of Cortez on longline hooks.

Perhaps most surprising, for those not aware: Mexican law forbids the sale of dolphin. Yet tons and tons end up processed and shipped in black markets (mostly to the United States - apparently in violation of the Lacey Act). Most of that might be stopped but (1) loopholes permit "phantom fish cooperatives," as "Oro de Cortez" describes them, to easily obtain exceptions to laws forbidding longlining near the coast or the taking of dorado and (2) in any case, CONAPESCA, Mexico's fisheries agency, simple does not enforce laws.

If knowledge is power, perhaps these videos will help increase public awareness in Mexico and in the U.S. of how dire the situation is likely to soon become for Mexico's dorado, and help end the corruption and apathy that seem to keep the Mexican government from enforcing its own fisheries laws.