Collecting Fishes in Mexico

by Steven Kazianis 

From the website http://

Xiphophorus fishes naturally reside in Mexico, Guatemala, Belize and Honduras. Most of these are found in freshwater drainages in eastern Mexico. Since Xiphophorus researchers oftentimes must travel and collect in this country, they need to follow the proper procedures to ensure legal compliance with the Mexican government.



An antique International Harvester Scout II traversing a small bridge in Oaxaca, Mexico.

Necessary Steps In Brief:

Technically, applications need to be submitted to and approved by two distinct Mexican government agencies before you may collect. These are the following:

Secretaria de Relaciones Exteriores (SRE)

who require you to fill a form entitled "Formato de Solicitud para la Expedicionde Permiso para Realizar Investigacion Cientifica por Extranjeros en Territorio Mexicano" and

Secretaría de Medio Ambiente y Recursos Naturales (SEMARNAT)

who require you to fill form # INE-02-029-D, "Permiso especial de colecta científica de flora y fauna silvestre y otros recursos biológicos."

LUCKILY, you don't need to contact them directly if you are a US citizen. Instead, you can contact the US Embassy in Mexico. Specifically, Angelica Narvaez who is the liason officer at the OFFICE OF ENVIRONMENT, SCIENCE, AND TECHNOLOGY.

The permit process can take anywhere from 4 months to a year, so plan ahead. Also, the permit is comprised of approximately 6 pages and is printed in Spanish. Aside from obvious information, such as when you would want to travel, where you would want to go, and what fishes you would want to collect, you will need to write some additional sections and provide geographic maps and curriculum vitae. In addition, you will need letters from your Department Head and from at least one Mexican collaborator. A list of potential Mexican collaborators who study fishes is available. You will also need to make arrangements to deposit samples at a Mexican museum or institution. If traveling by car or truck, you will need to provide license plate information as well. The permit process in QUITE detailed, but very important! Last, but not least, the permit fee will be asked for, but only after informal approval of your application.

If all goes well, you will have 2 permits in hand, one will be from the Secretaria de Agricultura, Ganaderia, Desarollo Rural, Pesca y Alimentacion (SAGARPA; Comision Nacional de Agricultura Y Pesca) and the other will be from Secretaría de Medio Ambiente y Recursos Naturales (SEMARNAT).

Finally, one must be aware of the laws of the country that they are returning to. Oftentimes, there are strict policies regarding the importation of exotic species. In addition, museums may not accept samples if the proper domestic paperwork has not been filed. In the United States, for example, one MUST file a form with the US Fish and Wildlife Service. One must also call ahead and make sure that an agent will meet you at a specified time and border crossing. In addition, one must also talk to the customs agents as well as agents from the department of agriculture, who are usually at border checkpoints at all times.

In sum, be legal, be safe and.....

Good luck in your quest for fishes!