Guy Harvey and the GHOF team raised 55 billfish over 6 days during rough weather. Low light and shy fish made it more difficult to film but the team persisted and managed to collect fantastic footage of free-swimming blue marlin, striped marlin, silky sharks and, for the first time for the group - rough toothed dolphins! This is the third time the team partnered with legendary Captain Skip Smith and his dedicated two-man crew to complete this expedition out of Quepos, Costa Rica due to the consistency of encountering a large number of animals in a short space of time.
The team also witnessed the direct competition between recreational and commercial fishermen when a commercial long-liner started to drop their line right between their boat and another sports fisher. Given that the line was shallow and baited with live bait, the target species were likely tunas, dolphinfish and sharks. Recently, the US government declared a ban on the importation of billfish which affected many fishermen in Costa Rica as the country was the largest exporter of billfish to the USA. However, though indiscriminate, long lining is still legal in Costa Rica.
About an hour after the line was dropped, a bouy indicated something was hooked. Jessica Harvey jumped in with her camera to investigate.
Circling around and round on a large circle hook was a 3ft silky shark, estimated to be about a year old. Silky shark populations have depleted drastically in the last decade and continue to do so through this and other indiscriminate fishing practices. As a result, these animals, which can grow up to 10 ft long, live approximately 15 years, are listed as vulnerable to extinction by the IUCN. The silky shark found on the line had a lucky break. For how much longer, is still to be determined.
All in all, the expedition was a success. The largest prize was the 179lb yellowfin tuna that was caught by restaurant owner and long-time friend Andi Marcher. He reeled it in for one hour on 30lb test. Before being filleted, nine oi-oi (frigate tuna) were extracted from its stomach! A testament to how much a tuna needs to eat as it still went after the bait with what appeared to be a full belly! Billfish and tunas have very acidic stomachs to help them digest their prey quickly. This acid can sometimes irritate your hands when handling stomach contents so be mindful if you’re ever curious about what a tuna ate!
For more information on silky sharks and billfish species, visit Jessica Harvey’s Expedition Notebook. Continuous education, complimented with alternative viable solutions and support to the local communities is the only way indiscriminate fishing will be made history. The GHOF are doing more to provide access to this information through their research and educational initiatives, including the five year Eastern Tropical Pacific Seascape Program.
Thank you to everyone involved for making this expedition a success, including special guest Dr. Carl Treyz - Guy Harvey brand ambassador, dentist and talented photographer.