Sportfishermen attacked by Venezuelan fishing boat off Costa Rica


By Mike McDonald
The Tico Times

SAN JOSE, Costa Rica (MCT) — The Billfish Foundation sent a formal letter on Sunday to Costa Rican President Laura Chinchilla, urging her to investigate recent attacks on sportfishing vessels in Costa Rican waters.

The letter comes one week after crew members aboard the Silver Rod O — a US-based sportfishing boat owned by Gary Carter, a member of the nonprofit The Billfish Foundation — reported being assaulted with incendiary devices by a Venezuelan tuna purse seiner named La Rosa Mistica.

The alleged attack occurred off the coast of the Nicoya Peninsula, in northwestern Costa Rica.

"We are respectfully asking that your administration immediately initiate an investigation into this incident and take appropriate action against the captain and owners of La Rosa Mistica, " the letter stated. "We fear that … continued such actions will ultimately lead to injury or death at sea."

On Aug. 1, guests aboard the Silver Rod O were angling for billfish near a school of spinner dolphins and yellowfin tuna when a helicopter from La Rosa Mistica allegedly began to circle the boat and dropped several explosives into the water. Some of the explosives landed within 50 meters of the Silver Rod O while La Rosa Mistica charged toward the sportfishermen, the letter said.

"It was threatening," Carter said. "They were trying to either encircle us into their net or to plow us into the sea unless we abandoned the school of dolphin."

Luis Dobles, executive president of the Costa Rican Fisheries Institute (Incopesca), told The Tico Times the organization is considering filing a formal complaint against the Venezuelan ship for harassment and use of explosives devices.

Costa Rica’s Fishing and Aquaculture Law prohibits the use of any type of explosive in the country’s waters. Nevertheless, reports of commercial fishing vessels using explosives to stun fish are not uncommon.

Since 2008, Incopesca has filed three formal complaints for similar attacks.

As of Monday afternoon, The Billfish Foundation had not received a response from the Chinchilla administration.

Copyright (c) 2010, The Tico Times, San Jose, Costa Rica
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