A group of 60 fishermen, some covering their faces with bandanas and balaclavas, last week targeted Costa Rican Coast Guard officers with scare tactics in an attempt to recover two kilometers of illegal fishing nets seized from them.
The fishing nets were found inside an area that currently is banned for fishing until Aug. 14 to allow recovery of marine resources.
Edwin Cantillo, Coast Guard chief in the port of Caldera, in Puntarenas, on Friday confirmed the confiscation, adding that the seized nets are worth some ₡10 million ($18,000).
He explained that the fishing nets also were seized because they are prohibited, as the holes are so small they catch young fish and therefore prevent restocking of the area. Coast Guard officers reported the nets had 2.75 inch holes, while the minimum allowed is 3 inches.
Coast Guard Director Martín Arias said fishermen fled the scene as soon as they saw a patrol boat, but a group of 32 boats returned and surrounded the patrol. Fishermen then began insulting and threatening Coast Guard officers and officials from the Costa Rican Fisheries Institute (INCOPESCA) when they removed the nets.
None of the fishermen were arrested, but officers recorded video and took pictures of the boats. From those shots, INCOPESCA’s staff has identified several of the fishermen, the Public Security Ministry said in a press release.
The suspects could face criminal charges for threatening officers and for violations of the Fisheries and Agriculture Law.
INCOPESCA also will investigate if administrative penalties apply for some of these fishermen who may receive financial aid from the Mixed Institute for Social Aid. That aid is given to fishermen precisely to help them during the fishing ban.