Some 3,000 miles, a slight tick south of Raleigh, North Carolina is an example of how the economy of fishing affects us all.
It is in the fishing bucket-list, destination of Costa Rica that this third-world county suffers from first-world fishing-economics. Recently, one of five public universities in Costa Rica, National University (UNA) published a report that of the available tuna caught commercially in the waters adjacent; that 95 percent is caught by non-Costa Rica based commercial anglers.
Researchers report that, “The commercial value of tuna in Costa Rica is $62 million per year; of this total the country only receives $904,000, in licensing fees.” Further, it is reported that tuna caught in Costa Rica is processed in other countries, where it certainly enters the global market, possibly the local market, and possibly the local plate of tuna salad or seared tuna you may eat today, some 3,000 miles away from where it was actually caught.
Obviously, this issue has global significance. Yet really, this issue should also have very local significance in that we as anglers and connoisseurs of fish and fishing should embrace the concept of protecting the fishery from which we fish.
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On this first day of spring, and on what should soon be the magical time of year when the sun is warming and the fish are biting, the valuable resource of fishing is a resource we should value and actually demand that what is consumed commercially is part of a legitimate and resourceful process.
Recreationally, anglers invest millions of dollars into local economies in pursuit of fish. This investment may actually begin with purchasing fishing worms from a convenience store and snacks and gasoline and ice, as part of the purchase, with the food and ice and gasoline costing more than six ounces of worms, but part of the economy of fishing.
Commercially, anglers from the coast of North Carolina scrape salty skin and even saltier teeth to make a living that is heavy with political regulation and the catch they do achieve competes with global catches, where fish caught from third-world countries are caught cheap, sold cheap, and enter the market where they are re-sold cheap and served expensively on plates with white linen cloth napkins.
All of this leads me to believe that not only is the economy of fishing grossly misunderstood, it is also grossly unregulated, unchecked, unknown to those that set political and un-scientific based regulations.
Off the coast of North Carolina, where fertile waters and fertile fishing exists offshore, tourists school like feeding fish into local sea-view restaurants and it is likely the tuna and wahoo they eat, were actually caught in a seine net some three-thousand miles away and sold for pennies, compared to the price of a pre-cooked six-ounce meal.
Inland, the problem of fresh-fish and fish that finds a warm plate beside warm vegetables is probably worse. Two years ago, one early summer evening, I went to a local Durham restaurant, where the waiter explained the specials of the day, including locally caught salmon. I questioned the waiter on the location of where the salmon was caught, “Off the coast of North Carolina,” he said.
I further requested that the waiter provide further detail on the location of where the salmon was caught. A few moments later, he returned to the table, slightly more educated than when he left and said, “Actually it was caught in Iceland and not North Carolina,” he said. “I suppose local is really another term for global,” I said. The point in all of this is that we as anglers should not just fish for the fish we like, we should in a sense be aware and advocate that the fish served locally and commercially, is fairly sourced and fairly caught, too.
It would be complicated to prove or disprove the origin of tuna that becomes part of a menu item, locally. Yet, in a culture that is sensitive and aware to the origin of food, we as anglers should be more aware and advocates for fish to be sourced in a fair and equitable manner. We should also wonder about those locally caught, North Carolina salmon, too.
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