A report of the results from a socio-economic report conducted by The Billfish Foundation and members of Club de Pesca de Cartegena, Colombia, has been accepted for presentation at the 2015 American Fisheries Society Conference. The acceptance of this non-traditional fish science report illustrates that more people in fisheries academia and professional societies are becoming aware and interested in learning about the influences that can flow from sportfishing ecotourism. Some nations’ fishery managers and tourism officials recognize that economic benefits from ecotourism trade influences fishing practices, including changing from kill to catch and release. Once it is realized that properly releasing a fish so it can be caught by another tourist on another day makes good sense, then the economic incentives drive change for the good of fish conservation, while generating jobs and economic returns.
Recreational pelagic fishing & economic opportunity on Colombia’s Caribbean Coast reflects answers provided by anglers in several locations on Colombia’s Caribbean coast about why they fish, for which species they fish and how much they spend annually for recreational fishing. Specifically, billfish anglers were asked of their attitudes toward recreational fishing, do they target one or a few species, do they fish for sport and release or do they fish to harvest the fish for food. Analysis indicates that most of these anglers targeted a wide variety of species, not just billfish, and preferred fishing for sport rather than for consumption. In response to the question about how much they spend in a year on recreational fishing, the answers averaged $2,534 per survey participant.
With a growing economy and tremendous opportunities for a vibrant sportfishing eco-tourism trade, Colombia is at a pivotal point in deciding whether to develop such a trade. Sportfishing, especially with a catch and release fishery, generates recurring economic benefits to local communities. Previous surveys indicated if the targeted fish species are well managed so abundance and encounter rates for anglers are high, anglers will pay respectable sums for the opportunities to travel to the host nation and fish its waters repeatedly. A predominantly catch and release fishery also is compatible with sustaining fish resources, and thus, supports conservation of the species. Overall, many factors indicate that Colombia is a prime location for further socio-economic study and a sustainable sportfishing fishery.