San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Costa Rican fisheries underreporting catch, enviro group claims

A new study by the University of British Columbia Fisheries Center estimates that shrimp trawlers in Costa Rica caught some 871,000 tons of sharks, rays and boney fish as incidental by-catch from 1950 through 2008.

The study, “Reconstruction of Costa Rica’s Marine Fisheries Catches (1950-2008)”, estimates that half of that by-catch – about 435,000 tons of sharks, rays and fish –was discarded.

Additionally, the study indicates that the total annual catch of all Tico fisheries for the years studied was nearly 30,000 tons – a far greater amount than the 13,000 tons that the country reported to the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).

“This study demonstrates the scant management of fisheries resources in Costa Rica,” said Jorge Jiménez, general director of the conservation group MarViva Foundation. “The country needs a substantial reform in the administration of fisheries resources if we want to have food in the future.”

Researchers estimate that in the 1950-2008 period, shark catches in Costa Rican waters were 70 percent higher than the numbers reported to FAO, with a particular increase in the disparity between reported catches and actual catches after 2004, when the unloading of shark fins was prohibited in the country.

The report also noted insufficient information about tuna fisheries in Costa Rica to include them in the study, due to the fact that most tuna catches are unloaded outside of the country and therefore avoid monitoring.

“Costa Rica must reconsider if it wants to promote low-impact fisheries that benefit a larger number of families, or semi-industrial and industrial fisheries that have a grave impact on marine ecosystems,” said MarViva Foundation Sustainable Fisheries Coordinator Erick Ross Salazar.

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