Crowd Protests Tuna Farm Project

July 14, 2006

Several dozen protestors this week raised their voices and banners against a controversial tuna farm project, whose pending construction off Costa Rica’s southern Pacific coast has prompted a lawsuit by environmental and community organizations. The Constitutional Chamber of the Supreme Court (Sala IV) this week accepted their case for review.

The protestors, who gathered Tuesday morning at Parque Nacional, in downtown San José, included members of environmental organizations, fishermen, residents of the Southern Zone’s Guaymí indigenous community and the tourism sector.

They expressed concerns about the environmental risks and threats to the region’s tourism industry the tuna farm project allegedly poses, as well as indignation at being left out of the project’s permit application process.

Construction of the tuna farm, a project by the Costa Rican company Granjas Atuneras de Golfito S.A., backed by Spanish and Venezuelan capital, is planned near the mouth of the Golfo Dulce gulf.

As it has been approved, the farm would contain 10 giant circular, 50-meter-wide and 20-meter-deep cages/nets bunched approximately 2.8 kilometers from the coast near Punta Banco. Each cage is expected to contain an estimated 120 tons of tuna (TT, May 12).

One of the main risks of the farm is that 15,000 turtle hatchlings per year emerge in front of the projected site, and many will likely swim right into the nets to their deaths, according to Noah Anderson, a representative of the Marine Turtle Restoration Program (PRETOMA) who participated in the protest.

William Mata, a member of the Fishermen’s Association of Pavones, a famous surf destination just south of the gulf, said he is worried about the repercussions of this project on subsistence fishing, his livelihood, and tourism, the area’s main source of income.

Lisette Castillo, a representative of the Zancudo Fishermen’s Association, said residents of Zancudo, a beach near Pavones, were not consulted during the farm’s application process.

“We were not taken into consideration, and when we finally realized what was happening, boom! Here comes the farm,” she said.

The Costa Rican Fisheries Institute (INCOPESCA) awarded final approval of the project June 23 (TT, June 30).

Many of the protestors belong to organizations that recently filed complaints before the Environmental Tribunal of the Ministry of Environment and Energy (MINAE) against the ministry’s Environmental Secretariat (SETENA), which approved the tuna farm project’s environmental-impact study, and the ministry’s water department, which also approved the project (TT, July 7).

PRETOMA led these organizations in filing a lawsuit last Friday asking the Sala IV to annul the project’s permits. Monday, the high court announced it had accepted the case for review, according to Judicial Branch spokeswoman Sandra Castro.

 

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