Tuna Fishing in Panama
The Azuero Peninsula is home to the world’s most sought-after fish, the yellowfin tuna. March to May is the high season for tuna fishing in Panama, currently, there is no closed season.
Up until the late 1950s, Pole-and-line fishing was the predominant fishing method for yellowfin. Now, it has practically disappeared from the eastern Pacific Ocean.
On the Azuero Peninsula, local fishermen continue to use traditional methods, including pole-line fishing associated with dolphins, as well as long lining.
While these traditions continue in the coastal communities of the Azueros, purse-seine fisheries are in the process of replacing them. Purse-seines (large nets) take small fish. Whereas lines target larger fish. The more purse-seine fisheries the fewer fish have a chance to mature, reducing their chances of being caught by a line.
Purse-seines are also reducing the global stocks since they often take fish before they reach reproductive maturity. While there is little information on the reproductive biology of yellowfins, we know that they reach reproductive maturity relatively late.
In the town of Pedasí Laboratirio Achotines is studying the behavior and reproductive biology of yellowfins. It is the only lab in the world where tuna are bring spawned in captivity, for studying that is.
Recently the lab published a report titled “Research on the Reproductive Biology and Early Life History of Yellowfin Tuna Thunnus albacares in Panama.”
The lab shared research including findings on water temperatures in which spawning occurs and the maturity at which it occurs. Their findings showed that maturity was late in most species of tuna compared to other fish.
This knowledge could be used to create more protections for yellowfin tuna spawning in the Azuero Peninsula.
The lab is also tagging tuna, information on their migration patterns can help create protections from netting based on movement.
The health of yellow-fin tuna on the southern coast of the Azuero Peninsula is a direct indication of the health of global stocks.
By learning about the species and creating protections based on this information, we can protect yellowfin tuna globally.
If you are fishing Yellow-fin tuna in Panama here are some tips to practice sustainable fishing.
1. Ask for a recommendation for a captain. It is a good idea for your own safety to be out on the ocean with a local guide. They also know how to release anything not edible, and can inform you on bans based on the season.
2. Never take more fish than you can eat. A rule of thumb, one for every person fishing.
3. Tie-down anything not attached to the boat. Leave the ocean cleaner than you found it.