Costa Rica's tuna fishermen demand a six-year moratorium on international competition

The National Federation of the Fishing Sector (FENAPES) and the Costa Rican Fisheries Federation (FECOP) launched a campaign this week to collect signatures in support of a proposal to regulate tuna seine-fishing within 370 nautical miles of the country’s maritime territory.

Under the slogan “Tico Tuna for Tico Fishermen,” the campaing calls on the government to issue an executive order establishing a six-year moratorium allowing artisanal fishermen to work without direct competition from industrial seine fleets within the proposed area, which is part of Costa Rica’s Exclusive Economic Zone.

Data released in June by the Inter-American Tropical Tuna Commission show that the international tuna fleet captured 253,000 tons of tuna within the country’s EEZ from 2002 to 2011.

FECOP Executive Director Enrique Ramírez said Costa Rican waters currently offer a potential catch of 25,000 tons of tuna per year, “and most – 90 percent – is taken to other countries, mainly Ecuador.”

FENAPES and FECOP representatives said the proposal would be a first step in promoting “sustainable” tuna fishing aimed at recovering marine resources in Costa Rica’s Pacific waters.

The proposed regulations also would help some 15,000 families who depend on artisanal tuna fishing, as well as the tourism, sport fishing and environmental interests, Ramírez added.

International seine-fishers catch 18 times more fish than than national fleet, and their fishing devices “affect other species such as dolphins, manta rays, sailfish and marlin, among others,” FENAPES and FECOP said.

In August, Costa Rica banned shrimp trawling after the Constitutional Chamber of the Supreme Court, or Sala IV, ruled that the fishing technique causes serious damage to the marine environment.

Those interested in signing the petition can go to the campaign website at: http://firmas.fecop.org

Watch a video for the campaign here (Spanish only):