Abstract

Artisanal diving fisheries are a source of income, employment and food security of coastal areas in many countries. Understanding the dynamics of these fisheries, including the spatial and temporal dynamics of fishing effort, gears and species can help to address the challenges involved in fisheries management. We aimed to analyze the differences in fishing strategies undertaken by fishers that use two different diving methods (hookah and free diving), and the conditions and their potential impacts on catches when adjustments to those strategies are applied over time. For this, detailed information of fishing operations from artisanal boats in the North Pacific coast of Costa Rica was analyzed in two fishing seasons (2007-2008 and 2011-2012). Data were collected by onboard observers (fishing site, fishing time, species composition, depth and visibility). Additionally, interviews with divers were applied to obtain information of price per species, species volume and fishing operations. From the total number of trips during both seasons, hookah diving was represented by a sample size of 70.5%, while free diving, with a sample of 69.5%. More than 15 species were identified in each fishing season. Nevertheless, three categories had substantial contributions in both seasons with differences in the proportions for each case: green lobster (Panulirus gracilis), octopus (Octopus sp.) and parrotfish (Scarus perrico and S. ghobban). It is worth noting that an important proportion of catch was retained by fishers for personal consumption purposes, including species of high commercial value. Additional night diving activity, increased the number of dives from one season to another. Besides, cooperation processes in free diving fishing operations, and changes in fishing effort between seasons, defined important changes in fishing strategies. Potential causes of changes in fishing strategies and the implications for management to ensure the sustainability of these fisheries in the long term are discussed.