Environmental groups unify against fishing in national parks

Environmental organizations are coming out against a legislative proposal to open up the waters of national parks to commercial fishing.

The Programa para Restauración de Tortugas Marinas issued a statement against bill No. 17.715 that has been approved by a committee in the Asamblea Legislativa. The organization known as Pretoma also issued a joint statement with Preserve the Planet and Promar against the proposal. The lengthy statement was signed by a number of organizations including the Leatherback Trust.

“National parks are the last refuge for many overfished species,” the organizations said. “Conch and lobster, two heavily overfished species, still find refuge in national parks. It has recently been proven that national parks are in fact effective tools to restore degraded ecosystems and recover not only biodiversity, but the processes that keep the planet alive as well, such as the recycling of nutrients, the absorption of CO2, and the production of new organisms.”

The statement noted that fishing for personal consumption already is allowed with conditions in national parks.
“The marine protected areas of national parks represent only 0.64 percent of Costa Rican jurisdictional waters,” the statement added. “As these marine protected areas include less
than 1 percent of Costa Rica’s waters, it is unnecessary to promulgate a new law to open these areas to fishing. 99 percent of Costa Rica’s waters are available to promote projects that benefit the artisanal fishing sector, as well as others interested in responsible fisheries.”

The organizations noted that promoters of the bill said that it would prevent illegal activity, meaning the illegal fishing in restricted areas now. Said the statement:

“Social problems can’t be solved by legalizing illegal activities, they only get worse. According to a recent press release issued by the national Liberation Party, bill # 17.715 seeks to ‘avoid piracy and illegal fishing’ in national parks. In our view the bill doesn’t avoid piracy or illegal fishing at all, it just legalizes both. To argue that the solution to such a complex problem such as illegal fishing in national parks lies in the legalization of such activities, is like trying to solve illegal logging in national parks by allowing it. Illegal fishing currently represents a serious problem in national parks and the Ministry of Environment lacks the financial resources to fight it. We would like to ask the authorities the following question: How will the children and grandchildren of the artisanal fishermen make a living when no more populations of fish remain that can be sustainably exploited, not even in national parks?”

The statement urged more discussion of the issue with an eye toward establishing a solid fisheries policy.

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