San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Turtle NGO sets out to stop tuna farm plans for southern Costa Rica

The Marine Turtle Restoration Program (PRETOMA) has launched a campaign to prevent the development of a proposed tuna farm 1.5 kilometers north of Punto Banco in southern Costa Rica´s Golfo Dulce.

PRETOMA, an environmental nongovernmental organization, aims to convince national politicians that the farm would harm the environment and fall short of the economic benefits its backers are hoping for.

“This project offers no benefit to these local communities,” said Andy Bystrom, the turtle program´s communications director. “With this campaign we are trying to slow things down and eventually end the project completely.”

The organization is working with a team of attorneys to create a referendum that would receive public votes for or against the farm in August 2010. Until then, PRETOMA will lobby the Environment, Energy and Telecommunications Ministry (MINAET) to halt the continuation of the project.

PRETOMA has fought against the construction of the farm since plans for the project began in 2005, mainly because of fears that fecal matter from the overproduction of tuna could choke the gulf´s delicate ecosystem. Bystrom hopes the new official campaign will bring national and political attention to the damage the farm could cause.

Since the communities surrounding the gulf subsist mostly on fishing, it has been easy for PRETOMA to gain local support, according to Bystrom.

“They understand that this would negatively affect their yield,” Bystrom said. “It´s been an easy sale for us in the community right now.”

As part of the campaign, launched last week, the NGO opened a bank account to accept donations (see the Web site for details). Bystrom said he wasn´t sure of the total, but has received “floods of e-mails from concerned locals about donations.”

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