SPORTFISHING IN SOUTHERN California and northern Mexico waters is a cherished activity for many folks and a career for others. Whether they’re hooking up from the fighting chair of their own boat or from the cockpit of a charter vessel, ocean anglers find the chase, the fight and the catch to be an irrepressible thrill.
Anglers who want to ply the waters off Mexico for their preferred catch need to secure the proper permits and documentation and make sure they’re in compliance with all local regulations. Same as in the U.S. That’s nothing new. But while enforcement off Mexico may once have been lax — which is no excuse not to follow the rules — that is no longer the case, according to Mexican officials. So that U.S. anglers are not caught off guard, the Mexican Consulate in San Diego and the office of the Secretariat of Tourism in Baja California have launched a campaign to inform everyone heading south of the border in a boat. The Secretariat of Tourism created a website to help: sportfishinginmexico.com. In addition, U.S. marinas and sportfishing associations have been given notices to pass on to their tenants and members.
While this may be a case of a few sportfishing renegades ruining things for everyone else, the Mexican authorities are taking it seriously. The Mexican navy and the immigration department have beefed up their presence in Baja waters, stepping up inspections and verifications, looking for boats and anglers out of compliance. They aren’t handing out slaps on the wrist, and ignorance of the law isn’t an excuse. According to the Secretariat of Tourism, infractions will be dealt with in a variety of ways, the worst of which will see violators detained and/or deported and vessels confiscated. Boats — commercial and private — will be secured and taken to Port of Ensenada, where the fun of getting them back begins.
Mexican authorities aren’t trying to discourage U.S. boaters from wetting a line off Baja. Quite the opposite. They realize how important American recreational and commercial fishing vessels are to them. They are merely enforcing already-existing regulations that foreign (and local) anglers should be observing anyway. You would expect the same of guests in your house (though your powers of deportation are somewhat limited when it comes to your in-laws). Even if you think you know everything that’s required for a trip to Baja waters to land a tuna or a white sea bass, it wouldn’t hurt to double check, unless you enjoy enduring the paperwork marathon to get your boat back. In addition to sportfishinginmexico.com, check out californiasportfishing.org or consulmex. sre.gob.mx/sandiego. You’ll probably enjoy the trip more if the only reason you have to sweat is because you’re hooked up to a real fighter.