San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Anti-tuna farm protest gains ground in southern Costa Rica

PAVONES, Puntarenas – Hundreds of people gathered beneath sunny skies and protest banners here on Saturday to demonstrate against a proposed tuna farm to be located just south of this small, southern Pacific coastal town.

Representatives from national conservation groups and local indigenous groups, as well as reggae musicians, presented viewpoints at the Save the Golfo Dulce Festival. Reasons for opposition varied, but all agreed on one point – “No to the tuna farms.”

“This is monumental,” said Lisa Thrash, one of the event coordinators. “This is an issue that affects us all, and this is the first time we have all come together on this issue.”

The Environment, Energy and Telecommunications Ministry (MINAET) approved the construction of the tuna farms on April 30, based on a Sept. 16, 2008, report by the University of Costa Rica´s Ocean Science and Limnology Research Center (CIMAR).

While CIMAR´s report offers “technical criteria” for the tuna farm, it does not refer directly to, or offer any scientific information about, the Golfo Dulce (TT, Nov. 21, 2008).

Environmentalists believe the operation of the tuna farm will damage the Golfo Dulce ecosystem. Their major concern is that a high concentration of fish feces and food waste from the farm would flow into the gulf and choke the area of oxygen.

Without specific research on tuna farms in the Golfo Dulce, no one is certain which direction the currents would carry the waste.

In spite of MINAET´s approval of the project, members of the Marine Turtle Restoration Program (PRETOMA) are heading up initiatives to convince the government to reverse its decision.

Jorge Ballestero, a biologist for PRETOMA, urged the event´s attendees to sign a petition against the farms. The petition, which had collected more than 600 signatures as of Sunday morning, will be sent to Casa Presidencial later this week via fax.

“It´s the only way to stop it,” Ballestero said. “But this is just the beginning of the fight.”

See the May 29 print and PDF edition of The Tico Times for more on this story.

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