San Pedro Sula — Luis Rueda, a 37-year-old Honduran financier, is convinced that, with the necessary legal framework, Honduras has the potential to become a world-class destination for sport and recreational fishing, something that neighboring Guatemala has already achieved with sailfish.
The Tegucigalpa native’s passion for fishing began 17 years ago, and with his non-profit company HN Fishing, which he founded in May 2019, he has been engaged in educating more people about the sport, in a bid to achieve sustainable fishing in the country.
Marine and fishing activities employ around 25,000 people in Honduras, while the artisanal fishing fleet represents more than 80% of total employment in coastal marine communities, according to a report by the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations (ECOSOC).
Through his initiative, Rueda is seeking to generate spaces for education on fishing and its different variants, since ignorance leads to the failure to comply with the reproduction cycles of fish, and which is endangering the livelihood of each species and meaning that fishing is deteriorating as a sporting activity.
The intention of creating awareness in fishing, through good practices for its conservation, motivated Rueda to meet with authorities of the country’s Fisheries and Aquaculture Directorate (Digepesca), which is part of the Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock (SAG), to discuss why sportfishing enthusiasts should be able to operate within the framework of the Law of Fisheries and Aquaculture, and the importance of the sport’s professionalization.
“People think that sportfishing is just to go fishing, catch a small fish and take it home to eat, and it is not like that,” Rueda says. Rather, sportfishing consists of catching fish for recreational and non-profit purposes, that is, the opposite of commercial fishing.
“It is about catching a fish, measuring it and seeing if it meets the conditions to achieve a world record according to the International Game Fish Association, and then releasing it,” he adds.
An opportunity to be grasped
As a case in point, sportfishing in Mexico generates income of more than 68.1 million pesos ($3.38 million), from the sale of permits issued annually, according to figures from the National Commission of Aquaculture and Fisheries.
“There is a huge industry in sportfishing that Honduras is currently not taking advantage of,” says, adding that the country’s waters are plied by three of the so-called trophy species, such as black bass, in Lake Yojoa, or marlins in the Atlantic and the Caribbean Sea.
“We have several species of billfish, which are trophy species that can be exploited, but due to the lack of regulation in Honduras and the lack of supervision by the fishing authorities, the resources are deteriorating,” he added.
And when it comes to the conservation and protection of such species, Guatemala’s fisheries and agriculture law stipulates that the fishing of sailfish is exclusively for sport and recreation.
Open season for all
Four companies operate in Honduras selling clothing, accessories and equipment for sportfishing, but the lack of a legal framework makes it impossible for those companies to continue growing, according to Rueda.
“The companies understand that sportfishing as such does not exist, and that most fishermen are low-income, who find it difficult to enter a tournament, because the registration fee is high,” Rueda says.
With HN Fishing, Rueda seeks to promote activities that could include both artisanal and recreational fishers, with the organization of ultralight fishing tournaments with prices of up to 350 lempiras ($14).
This technique basically consists of fishing while the decoy sinks to the bottom, while participants learn the correct way to release a fish.
The company also organizes the only competition from January to December to fish the largest bass in the country, and which can be found in Lake Yojoa, El Cajón reservoir, and Yure lagoon, and in addition to the scientific and sporting pursuit, aims to attract foreign tourism to sportfishing.
“Because if we manage to catch a record-size fish, of 14 to 15 pounds, which is recognized internationally as a trophy fish, we would have sportfishing tourists coming from Mexico and the United States looking for trophy fish here,” Rueda says.