San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Costa Rican court orders officials to protect Caletas wetlands

Costa Rica’s Environmental Court ordered the National System of Conservation Areas (SINAC) to stop a local company from causing further damage to Caletas wetlands, located in the northwestern province of Guanacaste.

According to the ruling, the farming company Agropecuaria Caletas S.A. built a fence inside a protected area, or Maritime Zone, and is spraying rice fields with toxic chemicals that are damaging the wetlands. The company has rice plantations in several areas along the protected wetlands.

Local conservation group PRETOMA reported the damage in 2009, and the Environmental Court has since issued three rulings in favor of protecting the area.

The latest ruling forces SINAC to provide bi-monthly reports of actions taken to curb the damage.

It also orders Public Security Minister Mario Zamora, Civil Aviation Authority Director Jorge Fernández, Director of the Agriculture Ministry’s Phytosanitary Service Magda González and President of the Commission for the Control and Regulation of Agricultural Aviation Emmanuel Villalobos to take steps to guarantee that no flights are allowed to spray chemicals over Caletas.

Officials from the Tempisque Conservation Area already were notified of the court ruling and said they would abide by the court’s decision, and that lawyers and property owners also agreed to stop fumigating.

The World Wetland Network in 2010 awarded Caletas wetlands the Gray Award, which is given to wetlands that have suffered environmental damage caused by human activity.

The site is of high importance because it includes Caletas beach, an important sea turtle nesting spot since 2002, according to PRETOMA.

SINAC said officials would coordinate actions with local police to confiscate agricultural machinery if the company continues to harm the wetlands.

They also are conducting a study to determine if the fence is built inside a protected area, which according Costa Rica’s Maritime Zone Law includes all land 50 meters from the high-tide line in coastal areas.

On its website PRETOMA claims that in certain areas next to the wetlands “construction exists at only 5 meters from the high tide line.”

The Caletas Arío National Wildlife Refuge consists of 313.3 hectares of beaches, mangrove swamps, estuaries and Public Maritime Zone, including 19,486 hectares of Marine Protected Area.

Contact L. Arias at

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