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Panama launches Study on IMPACT of Sportfishing Tourism

Panama’s minister of science, technology and innovation has announced a socio-economic research study on the impact of sportfishing tourism. The Billfish Foundation in Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., will conduct the research.

In a conference call, Dr. Ruben Berrocal, National Secretary of SENACYT (Secretaría Nacional de Ciencia, Tecnología e Innovación) said, “My ministry is involved in tourism and the impact of sportfishing on the local marine life is very exciting, so we’re supporting this research.” He said other Panamanian ministers are also involved to enact sound environmental policies to preserve Panama’s precious resources while creating opportunities for economic prosperity. Last summer for the conservation of its marine life and its country’s socio-economic growth, Panama banned commercial purse seining. Earlier this year it also restricted longlining.

Dr. Russell Nelson, TBF’s Science Dir., said there are three parts to the research study.

After becoming the first Central American country to ban commercial netting and longlining from its waters, Panama is launching a socio-economic study to improve its sportfishing tourism and marine conservation efforts.“First we’ll map and estimate what’s currently brought into Panama by sportfishing tourism similar to work we’ve recently done in Mexico and Costa Rica. Panamanian economist Dr. Ruben Lockland will develop an input-output model allowing us to show how that money, and future monies coming into Panama, actually impact the total economy.

“For the first time we’ll be adding a second component to look at what opportunities exist within Panama now for new sportfishing destinations and new sportfishing opportunities. We’re talking about everything across the board — freshwater, saltwater, the Pacific, the Caribbean — to identify potential opportunities and what impediments in terms of infrastructure may lie in the way of developing those. We then can make recommendations to Panama’s officials about how they can improve to expand beyond what is currently going on in the sportfishing realm.

“And the third component will be an overview of how Panama is undertaking fisheries and resource management now, and how they might develop a modern science-based system to monitor the status, the changes of fisheries resources and move that into the 21st century.”

TBF board member Chris Fischer’s organization OCEARCH is helping coordinate the project in Panama. Also working with Nelson and Lockland is Dr. Rob Southwick of Southwick Associates a fishing economics and statistics firm who anticipates the study to take 18 months.

“Reflecting on the different fishing seasons and to meet and talk with anglers the survey portion will last about one year,” said Southwick who has a large database of anglers in North America available to be polled. “We’ll be asking them a wide range of marketing questions. And in the past we’ve found a lot of the U.S. angling community responds to good conservation.”

Nelson added, “There’s a very active recreational angling community in Panama. We’ll rely on those anglers to show us where the best fishing is located as well as potential areas for development that many in the outside community are unaware of for possible commercial businesses. The goal is to stimulate sustainable fishing and the economic development there.”

TBF has been working with the governments of Mexico, Costa Rica and Peru – some for over a decade – to protect billfish, mainly from overfishing of its coastal fisheries by foreign commercial interests, while implementing billfishing tag and release programs for sportsmen.

Established 25 years ago, The Billfish Foundation is the only non-profit organization dedicated solely to conserving and enhancing billfish populations around the world. TBF’s comprehensive network of members and supporters includes anglers, captains, mates, clubs tournament directors and sportfishing businesses. By coordinating efforts and speaking with one voice, TBF is able to work for solutions good for billfish and not punitive to recreational anglers. Visit www.billfish.org or to reach TBF president Ms. Ellen Peel, phone 800-438-8247 ex.108.

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