Thanks to the efforts of conservation group Sea Shepherd, Guatemalan officials are taking action against the illegal poaching of sailfish off the coast of Guatemala.
The group was asked by the Guatemalan Department of Fisheries to perform anti-poaching patrols with their vessel, the Brigitte Bardot, in order to prevent commercial exploitation of billfish -- a group of fish that includes sailfish and marlin. Under Guatemalan law, commercial poaching of billfish is illegal. The first wave of the operation has already proved successful, says Sea Shepherd.
During the first night of patrols, as many as seven boats were boarded by the Guatemalan officials. Upon inspection, two of these boats proved to have an illegal catch of sailfish. The illegally caught wildlife was documented and then returned to the sea. Administrative action has been taken against the fishermen.
Sea Shepherd hopes that the patrols will serve as evidence to the government that illegal fishing takes place on a large scale in Guatemalan waters, and that it will take more action to stop it.
"Guatemala cares deeply about their natural world and we applaud the government for taking this pro-active approach against illegal fishing activities that endanger the country's natural balance and the environment as a whole," said Captain Alex Cornelissen, Sea Shepherd Global Executive Director. "Sea Shepherd believes that direct action is needed to fight the serious and imminent threats facing the world's oceans."
While billfish are not endangered, they are prized as game fish and for food, and exist in strikingly low numbers in places where they were once abundant. If you're not familiar with sailfish, this incredible video from Planet Earth will fill you in: