By Amanda Henderson
COSTA DE PÁJAROS, Costa Rica — Two fishermen were spotted Saturday using a large net from their boat in a protected area of the Gulf of Nicoya, an inlet of the Pacific Ocean in western Costa Rica.
The captain of a tour boat carrying University of Missouri journalism students spotted the apparent illegal activity. The students immediately began documenting the event on social media.
The captain, Ezequiel Alvárez Rojas, was showing the students around the Responsible Fishing Area near the Pájaros Island Biological Reserve. Using any nets in the protected area is illegal.
Fishermen and other residents of the Costa de Pájaros region are trying to reduce fishing pressure and allow the protected area’s marine life to repopulate. They use only hand lines to catch fish.
As the tour boat approached the fishing boat, the two fishermen appeared to be pulling a net several dozen meters long out of the water.
Alvárez Rojas shouted at them in Spanish, saying they could not fish with a net as it is illegal.
He also noticed that the boat had no registration markings, which would be equivalent to not having a license plate on a car.
Alvárez Rojas tried to radio the Coast Guard and alert officials to the situation. His radio signal apparently was not strong enough to reach them, so his deck hand used a cell phone to alert a colleague on land to make the call.
Alvárez Rojas continued his tour of the protected area with the students. As his boat returned to port about an hour later, there was no sign of the Coast Guard nor of the fishermen with the net.
Edited by Kathryn Cawdrey