Artisanal Fishermen, Tourist Chambers, and Municipalities ask for a Veto on Trawling

    Deputies approved in second debate a law that would seek to reactivate trawling in Costa Rica

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    Artisanal fishermen organizations, tourist chambers and local governments asked the President of the Republic, Carlos Alvarado, to veto the law that would reactivate trawling in Costa Rica.

    This was stated in an open letter published on October 23, in which they ask for a veto “because the recently approved bill will not guarantee sustainable democratic development on our coasts.”

    In all, 117 organizations signed the letter; among them 25 fishing associations, 14 tourist chambers and 13 local governments. Among the signatory municipalities, the 11 cantons of the province of Guanacaste ask for the veto.

    The Legislative Assembly approved this October 22 in a second debate a bill that would seek to reactivate trawling in the country. Its effect, however, would not be immediate, but requires studies to support the activity.

    Even so, for artisanal fishing, the reactivation of trawling is “a joke,” according to the president of the Guanacaste Chamber of Fishermen, Martín Contreras.

    “It hurts us to hear in plenary that ¢ 2.9 billion will be invested in studies to restore 20 or 25 licenses, when with that money we could do many mariculture projects,” said the fisherman.

    Another of the organizations that signed the letter was the Guanacaste Chamber of Tourism (Caturgua). Trawling could further affect this sector, said César Gallardo, a member of the Caturgua board of directors.

    “If tourists come now and there are no whales, for example, because what they eat is affected (by trawling), it will affect the image and it will affect tourism,” said Gallardo.

    The School of Biological Sciences of the National University (UNA) also requested the veto of the law, ensuring that, in the absence of adequate scientific information, the trawling activity cannot be resumed.

    For its part, the College of Veterinary Doctors also asked the Executive to “reconsider” the approval of the law and claimed to be “deeply concerned.” “Trawling would bring dire consequences and probably irreparable damage to marine ecosystems,” said the president of the college, Silvia Coto.

    Since 2013, new trawling licenses were no longer granted, following a ruling by the Constitutional Chamber. The court asked for more studies to support the activity, due to the overexploitation of shrimp.

    Now, the organizations are asking for the veto of President Alvarado, who has ten business days from the approval of the bill to carry out a possible veto. Alvarado said in 2017, during the presidential campaign, that he opposes trawling.

    “We hope he keeps his word and what he said at the time. We are going to make a rapprochement with the Presidential House”, said Gallardo. Some deputies, including Roberto Thompson and Ana Karine Niño from the National Liberation Party, also asked President Alvarado to veto the new shrimp fishing law.

    Total rejection

    Both the fishermen’s chamber and the tourism chamber regretted the approval of the activity with little technical support. Scientists still do not know, for example, how much shrimp is in the Pacific of Costa Rica.

    Gallardo also claimed to be surprised by the number of deputies absent from the vote (11), due to the importance of this matter. “They did not care about Costa Rica, nor tourism, nor the sustainability of the country,” he said.

    “Either it exists and we ruin everything we have in favor of Costa Rica at the moment – sustainability, friendliness with the environment – or it does not exist,” said the Caturgua director.

    For its part, the Guanacaste Chamber of Fishermen asked the government to veto the law and build a solution “with all parties involved.” As they said, the current project only takes into account the shrimp sector.

    “This project must be built with all the parties involved: environmental, social, semi-industrial, civil society, universities, that we all contribute. It is not worth two people building the project unilaterally”, assured Contreras.

    The Ministry of the Environment itself regretted the approval of this project, due to its little scientific support. Even so, in its statement, the institution did not refer to whether it would recommend an eventual veto.

    Among the signatories of the letter, 64 organizations of the 117 are part of the environmental sector. The organization Marviva, for example, indicated that this project will not help solve the poverty of the coasts.

    “This bill will generate legal insecurity, since, as the Constitutional Chamber reiterated in its recent vote, the eventual granting of licenses will depend on Incopesca being able to carry out, within a year, the pending scientific studies” said the director of the NGO, Jorge Arturo Jiménez.

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