CLASHES BETWEEN LOCAL BOATS AND AMERICAN SPORTFISHERMEN IN THE DOMINICAN REPUBLIC COULD HAVE FAR-REACHING RAMIFICATIONS.
But while the FADS may be simple, they are quite effective at their main mission: attracting bait. The local panga fleet uses the FADS to target dolphin and jacks—prime food staples in temperate waters worldwide.
Savvy skippers quickly learned that blue marlin hang around the FADS as well, and in surprising numbers. These skippers began making passes close to the FADS while trolling, with the aforementioned impressive results. But the proximity of the large American sportfishers to the Dominican artisanal fleet created conflict.
The artisanal fishermen believed that any fish hanging around the FADS rightly belonged to them, since they had put the FADS out there in the first place. So, when a U.S. boat would hook a blue, the pangas began moving in to gaff the marlin for themselves as the U.S. crew brought the fish close to the boat, sometimes within a few feet of the larger boat’s transom.
This led to some ugly confrontations and potentially dangerous boat-handling scenarios as the U.S. skippers tried to get the release while the locals attempted to harvest the marlin right off the end of their lines.
“The local boats would sit there by the FADS waiting for a U.S. boat to hook up,” said Capt. John Dudas, who drives the 63-foot Spencer Sandman. “Then they would come in and try to gaff the fish. They sometimes got pretty aggressive and we heard of pangas bumping into U.S. boats as they tried to gaff the marlin.”
Meetings among the interested parties were soon organized to find a solution to this growing problem. Boat owners and influential members of the Dominican fishing community devised a plan wherein the U.S. boats would contribute money to a fund that would be distributed among the artisanal fleet, with the goal of alleviating the clashes. The local fishermen would be paid to let the U.S. fleet fish for blues around their FADS.
This plan worked to some degree, but not all of the boats on either side bought into the agreement, so some conflict persisted. To help ease the tension, some U.S. boats negotiated on-the-water settlements wherein they would simply give the fish to the artisanal boats after they caught it.
By doing so, the conflict was resolved, but the marlin died instead of being released, creating a glaring conservation is-
Crossing lines with locals fishing for food can get dangerous.