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Panama Restores Tuna Fishing Exclusion Zone

A presidential decree signed on 16 February re-established a banned fishing zone in the Panamanian Pacific where purse net tuna fishing is prohibited.

“The marine-coastal protection zones and the special management of the Pacific are a guarantee for the activities of artisanal, sports, and commercial fishing and ensure that activities like tourism maintain an important role within our economy and are sustainable,” states Executive Decree N° 7/2009, published in the
Gaceta Oficial.
In August 2008, Panamanian President Martin Torrijos pledged to correct the “inattentive” act of having approved an article in the Maritime Commerce Law that allows the use of purse net tuna fishing in Maritime National Park area of Coiba Island.

In a letter sent to the President in January, more than 40 groups of Panamanian and international environmentalists called for the prohibition of the use of purse nets for targeting tuna in island surroundings, declared a Patrimony of Humanity by UNESCO in 2005.

The new decree highlights the use of purse nets, which “affect marine species, like peces de pico, dolphins, cetaceans, turtles,” among other resources.

The president of the Panamanian committee of the International Union for Nature Conservation, Zuleika Pinzon, applauded the commander in chief’s decision.

“It’s a relief because we still have to continue working on regulations for other fishing gear, as there is evidence that seafood resources are being extinguished,” she said.

"We are not saying that tuna or other species should not be targeted, but that the activity be regulated, fixing limits, quotas, sizes and reinforcing supervision” to avoid the extinction of the species and environmental deterioration, Pinzon clarified.

Meanwhile, the director of Environmental Incidence of the MarViva Foundation, Jessica Young, called the president’s decision “an important step.”

"It is unacceptable to replace an environmental disposition for another, or a mere commercial intention, without taking into consideration the citizenry and without relying on a scientific base, ” Young added.

Meanwhile, Luis Lopez Alfaro of the Association of Sport Fishing contended: “the law does not seek to go against any established business, but rather to secure business for the long term for all those interested in food security for the coastal communities that make their living off artisanal fishing,” La Estrella reported.