Panama fish catch 40 percent larger than reported

By STRI

Panama is said to mean “abundance of fish.” Until recently Panama was also synonymous with bountiful fisheries. A new study estimates that between 1950 and 2010, the haul was so considerable officials could not keep tabs on more than a third of the catch. As fish stocks dwindle, this revelation may contribute to establishing sustainable fisheries in Panama and the region.

For three years Héctor Guzmán of the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute and colleagues from the University of British Columbia compiled official data and dozens of studies of off-the-books fisheries. They cautiously estimated that almost 40 percent of the total catch — including tuna, lobster, shellfish and shark — was unaccounted for.

“We estimated missing and under-reported components very conservatively so this is likely still an underestimate of what is being removed,” said Sarah Harper, of UBC’s Sea Around Us Project who was the lead author on the study published in Marine Fisheries Review. Guzmán and UBC’s Kyrstn Zylich and Dirk Zeller co-authored the research.

The discrepancy is due to minimal reporting of bycatch by commercial vessels and a dearth of data from recreational, subsistence and artisanal fishers. Illegal fishing by foreign vessels and catches by Panamanian-flagged ships operating from foreign ports also play an important role.

“We were not surprised by these alarming results,” said Guzmán a marine ecologist known for research that underpins regional conservation policy. “This is the first fishery baseline made for Panama. We hope to promote an open and all-inclusive dialogue to implement management tools for sustainable fisheries.”

The researchers recommend an overall reorganization of the fishing sector to include better monitoring, planning and surveillance of fishing zones and better managed marine protected areas. Curtailing carte blanche commercial fishing licenses, which are sometimes species indiscriminate, would also help, said Guzmán.

From anchovies to Sharks

Panama’s industrial fisheries developed in the 1960s to harvest herring and anchovies for fishmeal and oil for export. The scallop fishery reached its apex in the 1980s and collapsed without recovery in 1991. Shrimp, tuna, lobster and conch harvesting continue, with many populations now in decline.

Relatively new targets are sharks, especially hammerheads, for sale of shark fins overseas. Sharks are often harvested in inshore areas, including vulnerable nurseries. “There is likely substantial under-reporting of catches by domestic vessels and possibly a large number of sharks being caught by foreign vessels operating illegally in Panamanian waters,” the authors wrote.

Under-reporting of catch is not unique to Panama and improved monitoring does not have to be prohibitively costly. “Resource-limited countries can still effectively monitor their fisheries by implementing regular, non-annual surveys,” said the authors. “For Panama to retain meaning in its name (“abundance of fish”), fisheries management will need to make substantial improvements.”

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Fam Trip to Azuero Peninsula

By Franzisca Beyer

Just at the end of my internship I was invited to a great trip to Azuero and for sure I was more than happy to go on this last trip with Panama Al Natural who organized the whole trip.
Our trip started with visiting the archaeological park el Cano (province of Cocle), where remains of bodies, weapons, tools and pieces of gold, whose antiquity dates between 700 and 1,000 years were found. The excavations in el Caño started in 2006 in an area of about 5,000 square meters, but the first archaeological finds of bodies and parts were found between 2008 and 2009, when the first discoveries were reported. Visiting this place was a very nice start to our trip.
Later that day we arrived to Parita a small town near Chitre, where we visited a man who produces traditional masks. We were invited to his home, he explained and showed us how to fabricate these masks. It was heartwarming to see him working with so much passion.
Having arrived in Pedasi, we got picked up by our guide for the next hours. I already had been to Pedasi, but I had not heard before about Isla Cañas, which is about an one hour ride from Pedasi. This island is the most important place in Panama where turtles  come to spawn and whales on their migration path can be observe.

After delicious fried fish with patacones we took a long walk at the beach, hoping to meet a turtle. It was deep dark..I was listening to the sounds of the ocean and trying to keep this amazing atmosphere in mind.
And it was our lucky day because just when we started our way back to the hotel we saw a big and beautiful turtle spawning. It was one of the best days in my life…we all sat down and observed her patiently. The turtle finished spawning and started to cover the eggs carefully, after assuring herself that all eggs were well protected she started her long way back to the ocean. Impressed of this wonder of nature we also got back to the hotel.
The next day after having lovely prepared and delicious pancakes at Hostal Doña Maria we continued our trip to a small town called San José, where we had traditional lunch and got an introduction about the pollera, the typical dress of Panama which was quite interesting. It is incredible how enthusiastic these women produce the polleras and how successful they are. We finished the day with a tasty diner at hotel Mykonos in Santiago.
Early in the morning we started our last day with a boat trip to an island in the bay of Montijo. Our boat was accompanied by dolphins, the sun was shining and the island was just stunning beautiful with a white-sand beach and pristine water. While eating my picnic lunch at the beach, I watched pelicans catching fish and I was thinking about how lucky I am to experience Panama with EcoCircuitos.
Now I am back in the office writing my last report and I would like to thank EcoCircuitos for my internship here in Panama. This last trip and the Panama Canal Transit are definitely experiences that I will remember a life time.

Discover Coiba National Park

This national park and UNESCO World Heritage site is located in the southern part of the Veraguas province in the Pacific Ocean, made up of a group of islands. Coiba is the biggest island. The area of the land on the islands combined with the marine territory comes to the amazing total of 270,125 hectares (650,000 acres), making it one of the most extensive marine parks in the world. This park protects three different kinds of ecosystems: the island, reef and marine life. Due to its geographical location a penal colony was established here in 1910, the remains can still be seen today because of this situation the forest on the Coiba Island remained untouched.

For more information and itineraries to Coiba, please contact us at info@ecocircuitos.com

New Birding Tour in Bocas del Toro

Tranquilo Bay is ready to announce the addition of guided birding trips on the Western Caribbean Slope to their excursions.

Tranquilo Bay has been birding the Western Caribbean Slope for many years and in 2008 hired two full time biologist, that combined have 16 years of experience working in the Province of Bocas del Toro.
birding tours panama
In western Panama the Caribbean Slope of the Talamanca mountain range, Tranquilo Bay’s back yard, plunges some 11,000 feet from the high alpine forest of La Amistad National Park into the lowland rainforests bordering the Caribbean Sea, in a span of less than 40 miles. Within the areas we explore from our comfortable facility the altitude ranges from 7,000 feet to sea level in a zone where nearly 500 species of birds can be found. This extreme biodiversity and high level of endemic species is due to abrupt changes in altitudinal zones and extreme geographic features creating many distinct ecosystems, as well as, migratory corridors.

Tranquilo Bay is located on 100 pristine acres, adjacent to Bastimentos National Marine Park, amongst the convergence of 3 distinct ecosystems. This creates an extremely diverse and unique wildlife observation site where flora and fauna overlap from separate worlds increasing diversity. In a week it is possible to identify over 100 species of birds without leaving the property. There are several elevated porches throughout the facility, creating an incredible eye-level view. While birding onsite you might also encounter white-faced capuchin monkeys, night monkeys, two and three toed sloths, iguanas, caiman, butterflies, a variety of frogs and lizards, and within the canopy a collage of rain forest hardwood and fruit trees, lianas, mangroves, ferns, orchids and cycads.

Some common Birds Of Isla Bastimentos (Common favorites)
Gold Collared Manakin, Three Wattled Bell Bird, Violet Crowned Wood Nymph, Red Lored Amazon Parrots (by the hundreds), Green Ibis, White-Crowned Pigeon, Blue Dacnis, White Hawk, Red-legged Honeycreeper, Green Honeycreeper, Lineated Woodpecker among others.

EcoCircuitos Panama is proud to offer birding tours to Bocas del Toro with a great team of guides. For more information, contact us at annie@ecocircuitos.com or info@ecocircuitos.com

Turtle observation in Panama

Turtle observation panamaIf you are looking to observe sea turtles and sea turtle nesting Panama is one of the most popular places in the world for this. Four species of marine turtles are known to nest in the Bocas del Toro Archipelago only. The leatherback (Dermochelys coriacea), hawksbill (Eretmochelys imbricata), green turtle (Chelonia mydas) and loggerhead turtle (Caretta caretta), that can be seen in different seasons during the year.

During the season for the leatherback you can see it along the beaches of Bluff and Bastimentos in Bocas del Toro. This is the largest of the marine turtles. A mature female averages 150 cm in length and weighs around one half a ton. Females lay eggs about 9 times during their 4 month gestation period, with 10 days roughly been nest making. Escorted by a naturalist Guide and sometimes by a biologist on site doing their research, you will have the opportunity to admire this amazing wonder of nature. We won´t be disturbing the turtles so the tour will be manage in a very sustainable way only for very small groups. To learn more about this great educational tour, please contact us at info@ecocircuitos.com come and discover Panama with the best team! http://www.ecocircuitos.com