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- Photo via MarViva Foundation -

Foundation sues Costa Rica over controversial trawling investigation

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Published on Thursday, June 15, 2023
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The MarViva Foundation filed a lawsuit before the Costa Rican Court, over an investigation carried out by the government, through the Fishery Institute (Incopesca) on shrimp fishing.

The organization, created in 2002, promotes the conservation and sustainable use of marine resources to optimize more sustainable management of the sea.

The foundation claimed that Incopesca granted permits authorizing the commercial exploitation of shrimp using the trawling technique. "To achieve this, Incopesca carried out illegal acts that must be declared null and void," they said.

According to MarViva, the polemic study could cause trawling to be reactivated in Costa Rican seas.

Trawling is a method of fishing that involves pulling a fishing net through the water behind one or more boats. This fishing method is controversial because of its environmental impact. Because bottom trawling involves towing heavy fishing gear over the seabed, it can cause large-scale destruction on the ocean bottom, including coral shattering, damage to habitats and removal of seaweed.

By-catch commonly includes valued species such as dolphins, sea turtles, and sharks, and may also include sublegal or immature individuals of the targeted species, among many other species.

The lawsuit has the goal to "avoid irreparable or difficult to repair damage to natural resources, effects on the economic activity of artisanal and sport fishing and prevent the improper, ineffective and inefficient use of State money," the organization said in its statement.

According to the 2018  rulings, court determines the minimum requirements for a scientific investigation that intends to analyze the social, economic and environmental viability of trawling in Costa Rica should contemplate. 

In these rulings, the court reiterated that to restore trawling, a significant reduction in bycatch must be demonstrated, be consistent with democratic sustainable development, and consider factors such as ecosystem interactions, pollution, regeneration capacity, and affected population, among many others. "All these requirements were ignored in the investigation," they claimed.

Erick Brenes, Executive Director of the foundation, said the institute's project authorized, during two years, eight semi-industrial vessels to dispose of the catches obtained for commercial purposes.

Brenes added that the country also has wasted money on a study without scientific rigor or controls, which will not yield valuable conclusions and, rather, harms ecosystems, biodiversity and the economy of artisanal fishermen.

“When reviewing the file of this investigation we can verify the negligence of Incopesca when it comes to granting permits and issuing agreements. It is unacceptable that this institution does not include efficient control and monitoring mechanisms for costs and expenses, nor has it contemplated a cost-benefit analysis promptly,” he said.

Another polemic action by the Institute happened in May, when the Board of Directors vetoed an agreement they previously approved, to expand the list of fishing interests for commercial exploitation by 200 species, which included wild species.   The document authorized the exploitation and trade of corals, turtles, wild iguanas, sea urchins, sponges, sea cucumbers and algae among many others.

What environmental impact would Costa Rica have if trawling is authorized? 
We would like to know your thoughts on this story. Send your comments to news@amcostarica.com

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