The Costa Rican Tourism Institute (ICT) has awarded the company NÁUTICA JJ S.A. the construction of a 75-meter long berth on the marine platform of Puerto Viejo, Limón, a project valued at ¢ 415 million. Local tourism and environmental organizations allege that the Berth project does not comply with the principle of legality in the process of environmental viability since the Environmental Impact Assessment has a series of serious deficiencies and inconsistencies that were indicated in a Nullity Appeal last Monday before the Environmental Technical Secretariat (SETENA).

The main concern is the risk to the complex marine ecosystem. The same Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA), presented by the ICT, lacks true scientific support and ignores the existence of this ecosystem, on the contrary, the biological analysis provided in the file is superficial and without reporting such important species as the manatee or sea turtles.

In addition to the construction of the berth, local ecotourism will be negatively impacted. Diving associations, surfing, artisanal fishermen, even local artisans will be displaced by this infrastructure. There will also be irreversible impacts on marine ecosystems due to the contamination of water with fecal waste, hydrocarbons, and the construction of the berth itself.

A typical day for tourists in Puerto Viejo

The absence of a Regulatory Plan, the lack of important technical studies and basic planning tools for a construction of these characteristics mean that the Environmental Viability granted by SETENA under N° 1856-2018 has vices of absolute nullity according to the document presented by inhabitants of the South Caribbean with the support of the environmental lawyer Bernal Gamboa of the Preservationist Association of Flora and Fauna (APREFLOFAS).

The low transparency with which the ICT has managed this plan is one of the things that most concern the inhabitants of Puerto Viejo, although the Government of the Republic leads the negotiation of an international tool on the right to social participation in environmental issues known as the “Escazú Agreement”. This mega project was never taken to the consideration of people living in the South Caribbean of our country.

Furthermore, Article 9 of the Law on the Concession and Operation of Marinas and Tourist Berths, Law 7744, says that public hearings must be held to present the project. This condition never existed and there is no evidence of this in the SETENA file. It must be remembered that the community realized the “Berth” project through social networks when the Chamber of Tourism and the Municipality of Talamanca announced the placement of the “first stone”. Due to local discontent, this event was never held and there was never a process of good faith to inform or consult the community.

It can be said that for the 2nd time they violate the Law of Marinas and Berths by ignoring the existence of coral reefs in Puerto Viejo. This law requests a technical study that demonstrates the absence of coral ecosystems before starting a project like the one in question, but this study is not available in the SETENA files.

For many people, Puerto Viejo is part of a coral garden that extends from the end of the Lanchón (where the town begins as such) to the end of Puerto Viejo itself in Pirripli, Cocles-Manzanillo. The reefs of Puerto Viejo contain a high biodiversity, as reported by the Community Diving Center: Ambassadors and Ambassadors of the Sea. There are 22 types of seaweed, 1 sponge, 8 types of hermatypic corals, 4 types of mollusks (snails), 1 annelid, stars, cookies, cucumber, and sea urchins. In addition, 133 species of fish are reported.

Next Friday, August 30th, 2019, the residents of Puerto Viejo will call a rally to demonstrate against the berth and provide information on the environmental and social impacts it would have.

Here the list of signatory organizations against the construction of a berth in Puerto Viejo:

  • Group “No al Atracadero”
  • Covirenas Caribe Sur Puerto Viejo
  • Earth Stewards of the Caribbean
  • Talamanqueña Association of Ecotourism and Conservation (ATEC)
  • Costa Rican Federation for the Conservation of Nature (FECON)
  • Flora and Fauna Preservation Association (APREFLOFAS)
  • Community Diving Center “Embajadores del Mar”
  • JFA Youth Movement “I Am”
  • Caribbean Surf School
  • Green Block
  • Puerto Viejo Surfers Committee
  • MINAE Workers Union Association (SITRAMINAE)
  • Red Frog Team
  • Guardians of Nature