Southern Costa Rica to reel in harmful fishing practices

May 29, 2009

PUERTO JIMENEZ, Puntarenas – The rods are being set to pull fishing nets out of the Golfo Dulce forever.

Officials from local and national fishing organizations and conservation groups met in the town hall here on Saturday to discuss a plan that would declare the gulf – home to one of the world´s five tropical fjords – a “marine area of responsible fishing” (AMPR). The two-and-a-half-year plan would involve eliminating shrimp trawlers from the area, conducting biological studies and teaching gillnet fishermen how to use sustainable fishing practices.

Officials of the Costa Rican Federation for Fishing Tourism (FECOPT) presented the plan to directors of the National Fisheries Institute (INCOPESCA) and members of the National Artisanal Fishing Federation. Members from all parties were on board with removing fishing nets from the gulf.

“It´s the only way to restore this gulf,” said Donald McGuinness, president of FECOPT. “It´s already overfished.”

The nets have long been the center of attacks from national conservation groups that worry about the bycatch captured by trawls and gillnets. Dolphins, turtles and sharks are often trapped and killed in the nets used for catching other marine creatures such as shrimp.

Randall Arauz, president of the Marine Turtle and Restoration Program (PRETOMA), said if the fishing institutes are serious about declaring the Golfo Dulce a responsible fishing area, they must first eliminate the shrimp trawlers, which he said have been notorious for pulling unnecessary bycatch out of the gulf. The United States has embargoed Costa Rica´s shrimp industry four times since 1999 because of a lack of use and enforcement of sustainable fishing practices.

“We´ve been telling them for years to get shrimp boats out of here,” Arauz said.

INCOPESCA President Jorge Barrantes said the shrimp boats are among the first of their concerns.

“We are working with the shrimpers now,” he said. “We hope to have them out within a month.”

INCOPESCA officials will meet with shrimping organizations in the Pacific port city of Puntarenas this Friday to discuss the plan.

See the June 5 print or PDF edition of The Tico Times for more on this story.

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