San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Illegal Fishing Near Cocos Fueled by Subsidized Gas

Costa Rican fishers, propelled by taxfree gasoline thanks to government subsidies, are pillaging Isla del Coco, one of Costa Rica’s natural treasures, denounced a park guard to the daily La Nación.

According to Keylor Morales, approximately 25 Costa Rican boats fish in the protected waters around Cocos Island, located within a national park of the same name about 365 miles off Costa Rica’s Pacific port of Puntarenas. Fishing within 12 miles of the island is prohibited.

From January to September 2006, park guards found 395 miles of fishing nets with 10,000 fishhooks enveloping 333 living sea animals and 365 dead ones, the daily reported.Most were yellowfin tuna, followed by sharks, manta rays, sea turtles and other creatures.

The courts have received 67 complaints of illegal fishing in waters around Isla del Coco, and a sampling of 21 boats accused of illegally fishing those waters revealed that 17 of them receive government-subsidized gasoline, the daily reported.

On Wednesday, Environment and Energy Minister Roberto Dobles announced he has instructed the Costa Rican Fisheries Institute (INCOPESCA) to file criminal complaints against those who fish in protected waters, especially at Isla del Coco and around Santa RosaNational Park in the northwestern Guanacaste province, and to cancel their gasoline subsidies. The minister also asked INCOPESCA’s executive director Carlos Villalobos to keep him updated on the situation.


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