“SEA VISA” LEAVES
CONFUSION IN WAKE
RECREATIONAL FISHING TRIPS into Mexico from California have declined 50 percent since the need for contro- versial “sea visas” went into effect at he beginning of this year. According
to the Sportfishing Association of California, the
inequity, added expense, and confusion over who
needs a sea visa have led to canceled trips.
Foreign boaters now need the costly visas
to travel within 24 miles of Mexico’s mainland.
Previously, boaters entering those waters from the
U.S. and returning without visiting port needed
only to provide identification and proof of vessel
ownership, if stopped at sea. Those visiting Mexican
ports by private boat needed inexpensive visas similar to those used for land travel. But all that changed
January 1, 2012, when Mexico began to enforce a
new federal law requiring visa cards and passports
for all foreigners entering Mexican territory in an
effort to tighten the country’s own homeland security. Sea visas currently range from $28 for one- to
three-day travel, to $250 for one year, according
to published reports. Visas for those visiting Baja,
California, by land and staying less than a week cost
nothing, but aren’t accepted at sea. Inconsistent
enforcement further complicates matters and recreational boaters, anglers, cruisers, and sailboat racers
are wondering which rules to follow.
“Most cruisers and sailors are confused,” said
Tony Olson, a San Diego Vessel Assist captain, “but
some boaters I’ve talked to aren’t even aware of the
Pressure from the recreational boating commu-
nity and the U.S. State Department has compelled
Mexican federal and state agencies to clarify the
rules for the boating public. Until Mexico irons
things out, very few boaters are venturing south of
the border and, as of this writing, sea visas are only
available at a handful of for-hire fishing landings in
the San Diego area.
In the meantime, boaters should keep in
mind that Mexico is a sovereign nation, says
David Kennedy of BoatU.S. Government Affairs.
“Ultimately it’s a foreign-policy matter between
Mexico and the United States,” Kennedy said.
“We’ve been in communication with the U.S. State
Department’s Mexico Desk voicing our concerns
about what this may mean for recreational boaters.
We’re urging the State Department to help clarify for
American boaters what’s actually required and how
to comply.” — Jack Innis