San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Tuna Boat Captain Faces Criminal Charges

The captain of the fishing boat Tiuna will face criminal charges Dec. 15 for illegally fishing inside a national park.

The Tiuna was caught Jan. 29 with its nets in the water within the boundaries of Isla del Coco National Park, an island sanctuary 365 miles off Costa Rica’s Pacific coast.

A joint patrol of officials with the Environment, Energy and Telecommunications Ministry (MINAET), the Costa Guard and the ocean conservation group MarViva caught the Tiuna 9.5 miles from the island, according to a statement from the Prosecutor’s Office (TT, Feb. 1).

The captain and the company that owns the boat were already found guilty of environmental damages in the Environmental Tribunal, an administrative court under MINAET. The Tribunal ordered the captain and company to pay more than $668,000 in fines and ordered the boat stripped of its commercial license.

Police initially seized 280 tons of yellowfin tuna from the boat’s refrigerated storage, which the government put up for auction but received no offers.

A court in the Pacific port city of Puntarenas then ordered 230 tons be returned to the boat and its owners, saying the prosecutor could not prove it had all been caught within the island’s boundaries.

The handling of the Tiuna case has drawn criticism and exposed weaknesses in the legal protections for the park.

Under the fishing law in effect when the boat was caught, the boat’s captain faced a maximum fine of about $28,000. Jorge Jiménez, regional director of MarViva, estimated his organization spent $40,000 on the patrol that caught the Tiuna.

The fishing law has since been reformed.


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