Government caved in to fishing interest, environmental organizations claim

Stemming from the recent blockades of public highways by the fishery sector last Sept. 2, the government agreed to a series of reckless, illegal, and unconstitutional agreements, said a host of environmental agencies. The agreements and commitments were communicated to the environmental groups after a formal request to Serio Alfaro, minister of the Presidency, Sept. 7, a press release said.

The organizations said they were concerned about these agreements and said they understand they call for:

* The relaxing of shark commerce regulations. According to a draft decree to reform the wildlife conservation law, the legal responsibility of authorizing the importation, exportation and re-exportation of shark products will be transferred to commissions, the members of which will be assigned by the national system of protected areas.

Such responsibility currently rests upon a council integrated by national scientists, appointed independently by their own institutions. Furthermore, a scientific authority condition is granted to the fishery sector, with the right to propose its own representatives to the non permanent commissions.

This action is illogical, as the fishery sector participation during the decision-making process will be contrary to the public interest.

* Future adoption of passive attitude towards the conservation and protection of threatened and endangered shark species that must be included under international treaties signed by Costa Rica.

During this negotiation with the fishery sector, the government committed to not promoting nor supporting the listing of commercial interest shark species under international treaties. In other words, the government allows private commercial interests to prevail over environmental public interest.

* Active promotion of shark fin exports. The government commits to ask international couriers that have committed to stop transporting shark fins to resume these activities.

* The government agreed with the fishery sector to review the minimum catch size regulations under a participatory process, due to the denial of the fishery sector to abide by the limits established by the fisheries research department of the Instituto Costarricense de Pesca y Acuicultura.

* Increasing fishing effort without technical foundation. The fifth agreement exposes a recurrent problem that the environmental sector has denounced over the last years: the lack of technical information upon which to support fishery management decisions. The government has committed to increase tuna quotas and has called on the legislature to vote on a law for the development, promotion, and sustainable use of shrimp in Costa Rica without any technical background information whatsoever.

“We emphatically point out that Costa Rican law mandates that any administrative act must be clearly founded on technical grounds, especially when pertaining to the authorization of access to public domain goods, which belong to all Costa Ricans. The government must publicly indicate the technical foundation it used to adopt these commitments with the fishery sector,” said Jorge Jiménez of the Marviva Foundation.

The non-profit environmental sector said that its organizations consider that the agreements represent a setback to marine conservation and to the coastal communities that depend on the health of the seas.

The government is favoring private interests over environmental public interest, putting the subsistence of thousands of fishers and the conservation of this country´s marine fishery resources at risk, the press release said.

This press release was supported by: WIDECAST, Fundación Marviva, Pretoma, Conservación Internacional, AIDA, Misión Tiburón, UESPRA, Fundación KETO, The Leatherback Trust, Asociación Costa Rica por Siempre, Biocenosis, Fundación Amigos de la Isla del Coco, Sea Sheperd, Cedarena and Promar.

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