Costa Rica Considers Approving Green-Stick Fishing

The fishing method, in widespread use, reduces bycatch when targeting tuna for recreationally or commercially.

green-stick fishing
Green-stick fishing for tuna has proven to effectively reduce bycatch for countries that adopted the method. Costa Rica could be next to approve the rule.Courtesy Jason Stemple

Costa Rica's sport-fishing advocacy group, FECOP, has been studying the efficiency of green-stick fishing and whether the country's government should approve the method.

Green-sticking has worked successfully by countries for years in commercial and recreational tuna fishing. The method allows anglers to target tuna without almost any bycatch by mounting a long fiberglass rod, tinted green, on the boat to drag squid lures above the surface of the water. The tuna are drawn to the lures by the commotion of the trailing "bird" teaser lure-weight and competition for food.

Since late 2016, FECOP's director of science, Moises Mug, has led a green-sticking study. The research team will be testing the efficiency and amount of bycatch of green-sticking as well as vertically dropped lines for tuna. Eventually INA — the technical training institution that teaches different trades in Costa Rica including commercial and sport-fishing as a business — will add a “Green-Sticking” course to its fishing trade agenda, training Costa Ricans on their proper use.

However, in Costa Rica, all new or modified fishing rules must be backed by technical support and studies must be done in Costa Rica waters. So even though green-stick fishing has proven successful in other parts of the world as a sustainable method, it has not yet been officially approved for Costa Rica.

Once this project is before the board of directors of INCOPESCA, the government agency in charge of fisheries, a decision is expected soon. With the increasing demand for sustainable-caught tuna on the International market, the tuna exporters are also expected to support this license.

Mug, who holds a Masters of Science degree in fisheries biology, has been studying the tuna purse seine industry since 2001. His work with FECOP persuaded President Laura Chinchilla to sign a decree at the end of her term that moved tuna purse seine operations 45 miles off the coast and protected a total of 120,000 square miles of ocean from commercial tuna fishing. Earlier this year Mug’s studies helped persuade the government to reduce tuna licenses from 43 to 13.

For more information on green-stick fishing in Costa Rica, visit www.fishcostarica.org or email info@fecop.org.