New Sportfishing Study Will Provide Economic Roadmap For Panama
Little by little more countries are realizing the many advantages and economic returns of sportfishing tourism for their countries.
Below is an “opinion/letter to the editor” by two of Panama’s high ranking ministers regarding an upcoming socio-economic study on sportfishing tourism in the Central American nation. It was written by Dr. Ruben Berrocal, Panama's National Secretary of SENACYT (science, technology and innovation), and Salomon Shamah, the Minister of Tourism.
We stand on the brink of a period of strong economic growth that will
be fueled in part by a shift to a more sustainable use of our natural
resources. The international market for eco-tourism is rapidly expanding
and seeking new destinations, particularly in the area of sportfishing.
With proper planning and execution, Panama can and should establish
itself as the regional leader in this industry. But there is much work
to be done.
Previous studies of sportfishing tourism from The Billfish
Foundation, a non-profit organization and leader in worldwide marine
conservation programs and their economic benefits, have revealed that
sportfishing in Baja California Sur – a single state in Mexico –
generated over $630 million in 2008, accounting for 35,000 jobs and over
$1.25 billion in revenues overall. In neighboring Costa Rica,
sportfishing dollars added nearly $600 million to its gross domestic
product and created 63,000 jobs in 2009.
Incredibly, these figures are based primarily on tourists from just the United States and Canada.
In the United States alone, approximately 7.5 million people travel
outside their country to fish. Research from The Billfish Foundation
shows that only 1% of these tourists currently travel to Panama. To
remain competitive in Latin America, Panama must dramatically increase
this number and create further economic opportunities for our nation.
Fortunately, Panama is unique to the region in many ways that provide
an advantage. First and foremost, we are easy to travel to and we have
good infrastructure. In addition, our dollarized economy is more stable
and attractive to foreign investment. But most of all, we have better
To capitalize on the economic benefits that follow strong
eco-tourism, we must have abundant fish and wildlife. If our nation’s
valuable natural resources are available and accessible, tourists from
our hemisphere—and around the world—will no doubt place Panama at the
top of their list of future travel destinations.
Recent market research shows that a tourist destination that has
reduced over-fishing, and put in place sound conservation regulations on
sportfishing, increases the probability that a traveling angler will
choose that destination by over 80%.
Panama must find new ways to manage our natural resources and
continue to harvest safe and healthy seafood. But, we must also
drastically increase the amount of low-impact tourism attracted to
abundant wildlife. If properly managed, these changes will create new,
lasting jobs that are well paying. A robust and responsible sportfishing
industry is in Panama’s long-term interest.
It has been scientifically proven that being conscientious stewards
of fisheries through conservation programs like those advocated by the
sportfishing industry actually increase the quality and quantity of
commercial harvests over time. Yet today, many remain unaware of this
Under President Ricardo Martinelli’s leadership, we aim to enact
vital policies that preserve our precious resources while creating
opportunities for economic prosperity. We are prepared to meet this
Earlier this month (MARCH), SENACYT, Panama’s office of Science,
Innovation and Technology, began an in-depth study coordinated by local
economists and fishery scientists from The Billfish Foundation. This
collective effort will perform socio-economic research targeted to
estimate the level of sportfishing revenues currently coming into
Panama, identify opportunities for expanding to new destinations within
our country, and provide essential scientific advice on how to increase
our ability to effectively manage our precious aquatic resources.
This study will assist us in developing innovative, scientifically
proven management plans that will allow us to properly catalogue our
marine species. These findings will also help Panama create programs to
determine safe levels of recreational and commercial harvests and better
understand the spawning seasons of our marine species. By eliminating
the guesswork in best management practices, it will give us, and future
administrations, a rich body of research to take the necessary actions
to protect our resources.
We have long known how blessed we are to have the resources we do in
our beautiful little country. We also know that if we do not take proper
care of those resources, we will fall behind neighboring nations
competing hard for foreign dollars.
Panama must seize every opportunity to realize our prosperity and
promise and make the difficult choices that may lie ahead to enact
policies for the greater good. Our people—and our destiny—demand it of