The entire fishing industry of Guanacaste reiterated and made their position clear to the deputies of the province: they are completely against the bill that seeks to reinstate trawling. They did so to the five congressmen of the Special Committee on Guanacaste Affairs of the Legislative Assembly at a meeting with the artisanal sector in Santa Cruz on Saturday 28 May.

Fishermen House Guanacaste – representing the craft, longliner and tourism sector in the province – organized the meeting with deputies Marta Arauz Juan Marin and the National Liberation Party (PLN); Carrillo Suray Frente Amplio; Victor Morales of the Citizen Action Party (PAC); Johnny Leiva and the Social Christian Unity Party (PUSC) Party.

The meeting was attended by representatives of 16 fishing communities: 10 Pacific coast and another 6 of the inner Gulf of Nicoya. The group unanimously expressed again the reasons for their refusal to accept the record 19,838 “Law for the Sustainable Use of shrimp, Employment Generation and Poverty Reduction”.

President of the Chamber, Martin Contreras, told congressmen – comparing mesh of artisanal fishing and trawling – the harmful impacts of this technique. The guanacasteco leader said the craft requires the use of a network of 4.5-inch mesh, which allows the release of species that have not reached maturity. While contrastingly, the semi-industrial vessels use 1.5 inches and this catches everything in its path. These circumstances aggravate the fishing areas of both fleets.

“Break what you have to break,” Contreras said referring to the trawl. “We want to have the resource, not only for the present generation, but for future. We have the people of Cuajiniquil and others who are hungry, who spend days or even a month without eating, without fishing there is nothing!” said the five deputies.

The manager of Advocacy MarViva, Viviana Gutierrez, insisted that the government of Luis Guillermo Solís has not shown that the semi-industrial trawling is a form of sustainable fishing, to discuss a bill that reactivates the law is not appropriate. He added that the Fisheries Act and the Constitution require the demonstration of the sustainability of the shrimp farming activity, prior to the adoption of a new law. It can only be achieved with the available resource studies in Costa Rican waters, as it has indicated the Comptroller General of the Republic to Incopesca.

“We are concerned that the measures proposed by the bill are unrealistic. At this time the Costa Rican Institute of Fishing and Aquaculture (INCOPESCA) has the ability to put them into implementation and supervise them adequately, without jeopardizing the right to a healthy environment for all Costa Ricans. It is irresponsible to support an initiative that does not resolve how we will implement the fisheries authority, “said Gutierrez.

Doubts and positions of Members

Liberationist Juan Marin maintained his criticism of the bill, although he admitted that now it will be discussed in the Committee on Environment, which is analyzing the record 19,838. Betis said the opposition will continue because the project lacks studies to back it up.

“It is even clearer that the project does not work and the fishermen of Guanacaste give us sufficient support so we must heed the call of these fishermen. We are going to debate. If the project is improved and substantially is changed there would be some level of viability. If there is no change attitudes of what is in the text, the project will receive all our negative effort,” Marin said.

Suray Carrillo, of the Frente Amplio, noted the traditional knowledge of the craft, which live off the sea, and the information shown at the meeting. The deputy made clear it will oppose the initiative of the Executive. “In this project there is no negotiation or dialogue. If I have to put 100 motions, I will put 100 motions. It is the tool that a deputy has to stop a project,” said Carrillo.

Johnny Leiva, the PUSC, highlighted the union of the artisanal fisheries sector of Guanacaste, which he said must be protected against infringement by trawling. “Or that it should be modified completely (the project), or in its case voting against it if it is likely to remain the same”, told Leiva on his position.

Marta Arauz, of PLN, said the Incopesca should generate alternatives to “gradually” eliminate trawling in Costa Rica. He also admitted the lack of government support for the craft sector.

Victor Morales did not commit to a position because he is not fully aware of the project. But, he said that there are structural elements of fishing, which a project must analyze, passing through the capabilities to implement the law and the support of other institutions. He added that the initiative should consider whether or not it gives added value.

Martin Contreras, the Chamber of Fishermen of Guanacaste, will meet with the Minister of Agriculture and Livestock. The group does not rule out protest movements, even on 25 July, the date on which the President of the Republic visits the province to commemorate the Annexation of Nicoya.