San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Gov’t Keeps Willy Free

Whales and dolphins join the ranks of the free in Costa Rica, following a decree signed last weekend by President Oscar Arias that protects these marine mammals in all of Costa Rica’s ocean territory.
The decree forbids the “pursuit, capture, injury, netting or commercialization” of all whale and dolphin species on the country’s expansive, 640,000 square kilometer marine territory, the largest in Central America.
Arias waxed poetic about his move, likening it to the country’s now half-century old decision to do away with the army.
“Today, we have another peace agreement to sign, and another military force to abolish: We must come to peace with our environment,”he said in a speech in Puerto Jiménez, overlooking well-known whale and dolphin-viewing hotspot Golfo Dulce, in the Southern Zone.
“We must abolish the forces that seek to destroy it, and today, with these actions, we have done our part.”
Environment Minister Roberto Dobles seconded Arias’ commitment, stating that the country had proven once again that it was at the “forefront” of biodiversity protection worldwide.
While the decree makes the policy official, Costa Rica has traditionally never had a whale hunt, unlike nations such as Norway, Japan and Iceland, and dolphins have rarely been the target of commercial fishers here.
Earlier this year,Dobles voted against reinstating a limited hunt worldwide, despite the pressure from the Japanese, at a meeting of the International Whaling Commission (IWC) in Alaska.
Green Scale Ranks C.R. 5th
Costa Rica can put another notch in its belt of global recognition for greenness after scoring high on a new environmental performance list released by Yale and Columbia universities.
While Switzerland and the wealthy Scandinavian countries dominate, Costa Rica placed fifth overall, came first in Latin America and placed well among industrialized nations on the first official Environmental Performance Index released Wednesday. After Switzerland came Sweden, Norway, Finland and Costa Rica.
“Costa Rica is proud to be a global leader in environmental conservation,” said President Oscar Arias.
In Latin America, Colombia came second after Costa Rica, finishing ninth.
The United States came 39th among the index’s 149 countries, with the United Kingdom ranked 14th, Canada 12th and Australia 46th, according to the Web site
In Costa Rica, a separate report also brought good news to the environment. The country has cut its imports of ozone depleting gases by 71.5%, the Environment Ministry said. In 2004, the country imported 105 tons of chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), while in 2007, the amount was just 30 tons, according to newswire ACAN-EFE.
Industries have also reduced the purchase of harmful agricultural chemicals such as methyl bromide, typically used by melon growers to control a wide variety of pests. Imports of that chemical dropped from 1,070 tons in 1999 to 400 last year, thanks to a national phase-out program.

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