Environmental organization brings turtle fight to CAFTA

The Environmental Secretariat of the Central American Free Trade Agreement has requested Costa Rica to respond to the complaint filed by the Costa Rican environmental organization Pretoma last July 13, the private organization said. The secretariat took the action after studying the submitted documentation and determining that it fulfilled the requirements of the agreement, Pretoma said. The complaint claims non compliance of the country with its own sea turtle protection legislation.

Pretoma’s complaint specifically cites Costa Rica’s failure to abide by its own environmental legislation in three fields that pertain directly to the conservation of sea turtles and of the habitats upon which they depend.

The organization, which formally is known as Program Restauración de Tortugas Marinas, said it cites specifically the lack of enforcement of laws that protects sea turtles from drowning in shrimp trawl nets, laws that ban shrimp trawlers from operating in marine protected areas and laws that mandate shrimp trawlers to direct fishing effort on shrimp, and not on species of by-catch.

“Without a doubt, this situation stems directly from the conflict of interest that exists in the heart of the board of directors of INCOPESCA, the entity that establishes fishery policy in Costa Rica, majority of which is represented by private interests,” said Randall Arauz of Pretoma. “It’s embarrassing, this process will affect Costa Rica’s image, but I think the effect in the long run will be positive, as it proves once again that without the much needed reform of INCOPESCA, it will never be possible to improve marine conservation in this country.

INCOPESCA is the Instituto Costarricense de Pesca y Acuacultura.

Pretoma is basing its complaint on articles in the free trade treaty between Costa Rica and the United States and other countries in Central America. The treaty says that any person can file a complaint about a country failing to enforce its own environment laws, said Pretoma.

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