Costa Rican environmental organizations urge the Government to develop a marine policy that protects resources and encourages sustainable production and not merely extraction activities.
“The country lacks an effective marine policy. In 2013, a marine policy document was created that was shelved and since then citizens are reactively trying to do something about it”, the director-general of the MarViva Foundation, Jorge Jiménez, said.
The latest controversy arose this month when environmental sectors denounced that the Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock is trying to “revive” a draft decree that would eliminate the advisory role of a commission made up of scientists that provide recommendations on permits for the commercialization of marine species.
The MarViva Foundation and other environmental organizations denounced that the objective of this eventual decree is to grant decision-making power to the state-run Costa Rican Institute of Fisheries and Aquaculture (Incopesca), which they consider unacceptable. Jiménez explained that by not having scientific criteria, decisions on trade in species could affect many in danger of extinction, such as sharks.
This draft decree is stalled, as environmental organizations denounced that an adequate consultation process was not carried out as required by the laws of the country. Faced with situations like this, the country urges a robust marine policy, Jiménez said.
The environmentalist said that there is a serious interest of the Government to create new marine protected areas, but regretted that in reality, the State does not have the resources to adequately monitor them.
Increased conservation areas
According to official data, in the last decade, Costa Rica has added more than 11,000 square kilometers to its marine conservation map, for a total of 15,502 square kilometers, equivalent to 2.7% of its marine territory.
One of the biggest concerns for environmentalists is sharks. In the waters of Costa Rica, there are 11 species of shark in danger of extinction and whose populations have been drastically reduced in recent years. According to Jiménez, the silky shark is the most fished in Costa Rica and its populations have disappeared by 70%. For Jiménez, Costa Rica has a weak fishing sector and institutional framework, which aims to develop a resource extraction activity that is not sustainable over time.
“Fishing is an extractive activity. The country must bet on production and not on extraction. We import 2 to 3 times more fish and shellfish than we produce, we do not have a marine policy that cares about what we have and encourages production”, declared Jiménez. “One of the solutions is the establishment of fish, shrimp and crustacean farms under scientific and environmental protection parameters”, said Jiménez.
For this, he assured, in the country, there are trained people and successful examples of fish farms that, for example, produce between 800 and 900 tons of snapper per year, or shrimp, which generate up to 3 times more than what the fleet fishes of ships.
“It is not the lack of capital, technology or human resources, what kills us, is that an environmental impact study can take 2 years, a water-use permit one year and they depend on each other, so processing a permit (for a fish farm) can take several years,” Jiménez said.