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Three Billboards Outside San José, Costa Rica: Can fish bring a country together? – The Tico Times | Costa Rica News | Travel

Three Billboards Outside San José, Costa Rica: Can fish bring a country together? – The Tico Times | Costa Rica News | Travel

In case you are driving from Juan Santamaría Worldwide Airport towards San José, you’ll cross two units of billboards. Lettered in Spanish, the indicators translate to English as:

  1. There are overseas boats fishing illegally in Costa Rica
  2. They’re taking our marine assets with out permits
  3. Collectively we will change this… Learn how at
[Editor’s note: The author of this story works as the communications director for FECOP, the Costa Rican Fishing Federation.]

The marketing campaign billboards have been modeled after those within the award-winning movie “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri.” The indicators have been designed to be easy however efficient. It’s estimated that greater than 25 % of all tuna fished by overseas purse seine boats in Costa Rican territorial waters goes unreported or is taken by vessels not licensed to fish in Costa Rica — leading to zero profit to the country.

In an interview on Monumental Radio, Carlos Manuel Rodríguez, Minister of Setting and Power, denounced that the country loses hundreds of thousands of dollars within the unlawful fishing of tuna. Because of the worldwide licenses that the country offers for tuna fishing, this sector generates authorized income of $50 million and pays solely $1.three million for it. He went on to say if extra tuna have been out there to Costa Rica fishermen, they might goal tuna quite than partaking in controversial shark fishing.

Knowledge collected by Amigos de la Isla del Coco Basis (FAICO) throughout a research referred to as “Characterization and analysis of industrial fishing pressure in the ACMC and the adjacent Exclusive Economic Zone” discovered that fishing vessels entered the prohibited areas for purse seining greater than 130 occasions through the span of the research.

An evaluation by Conservation Worldwide and the Coast Guard utilizing satellite tv for pc know-how decided greater than 100 vessels have been concerned in illicit actions in 2016-17.

The yearly common authorized take from these boats had been round 25,000 tons of tuna. Of this, 9,000 tons goes to the cannery in Puntarenas and a lot of the relaxation by no means lands in Costa Rica. A research achieved by Federacion Costarricense de Pesca in 2013 confirmed Costa Rica solely benefitted $37 a ton from tuna taken by overseas vessels. This introduced concerning the first tuna reform in 2014, which moved the tuna boats offshore 45 miles and guarded different essential areas just like the waters round Coco Island and a complete of 200,000 sq. kilometers from purse seine fishing. In 2017, INCOPESCA, the governing board of fishing laws in Costa Rica, decreased the variety of authorized licenses from 43 to 13 and this yr put limits on the seize. However with little or no oversight, unlawful fishing exercise is sure to extend.

To raised perceive all this one wants to know all of the items of the puzzle. Not all of them see eye-to-eye on many points. Since this marketing campaign was began by FECOP, we begin first with:

Sport fishing

Sport fishing generates almost $380 million for the Costa Rican financial system and generates hundreds of jobs for Costa Ricans. FECOP — which advocates for sport fishing as a sustainable enterprise mannequin in addition to ocean administration — represents lots of them. A research just lately carried out by Henry Marín, venture supervisor for FECOP, confirmed that in a social-economic high quality of life mannequin research, Costa Ricans who work in sport fishing earned greater than the typical Costa Rican. Those that work in areas like Herradura and Quepos, the place there was a substantial funding in sport fishing infrastructure, have even greater incomes. There are additionally a good variety of non-anglers who consider sport fishing is a mindless sport, the place individuals torture animals for sport.

Business fishing

A tuna fishing vessel circles dolphins off the Osa Peninsula, on Costa Rica’s southern Pacific coast. Shawn Larkin/The Tico Times

That is one other essential a part of the Costa Rican financial system that employs hundreds in coastal communities. Costa Ricans eat a lot of fish and virtually all of the hundreds of thousands of vacationers that come right here annually need to expertise recent Costa Rican seafood. The exportation of fish merchandise can also be big. Opponents complain about non-selective arts of fishing with a excessive incidental catch of non-targeted or over-exploited species.

Tuna purse seine fleet

Costa Rica doesn’t have a purse seine vessel. The fleet consists of licenses bought to foreign-owned corporations that seize tuna by circling a faculty with a internet when closed captures every part inside. Opponents declare the bycatch — species caught aside from tuna — embrace marlin, sailfish, dorado, wahoo, sharks, turtles and marine mammals. Greater than 50 totally different species have been documented as bycatch within the tuna fleet. By analyzing earlier catch data, it’s estimated the fleet discount saved 25 tons of would have been marlin bycatch in 2017.


The tuna cannery in Puntarenas is a main participant in the area people. It employs properly over 1,000 Costa Ricans and requires 9,000 tons of tuna yearly to function. As a result of the demand of sustainably caught “one by one” tuna is rising so quick, the cannery is pressured to import pole- and line-caught fish from different nations to fill their orders.


The authorities, together with INCOPESCA, the Ministry of Agriculture, the Ministry of the Surroundings, the Coast Guard, the Ministry of Tourism, and the Legislative Meeting all have enter within the fishing licenses, controls and enforcement. Some have been accused of favoring one sector over one other or enterprise over setting, or that they don’t have the finances to function extra effectively.


There are lots of non-governmental nonprofits headquartered in Costa Rica specializing in marine conservation points. Many have carried out nice issues in Costa Rica. At occasions, conservation is a aggressive enterprise. Organizations compete for donor contributions. Due to this, they don’t talk properly with one another. Many occasions, they’re engaged on comparable tasks however for worry of dropping donations or credit score for successes — which flip into extra donations — they don’t share info. In the event that they did a little extra, constructive modifications might come extra quickly on smaller budgets.

Basic public

Costa Rica is the costliest country to stay in in Central America. Many sectors have been on strike or protesting the proposed tax reforms since September 10. They’re particularly displeased with some tax breaks corporations obtain whose merchandise manufactured in Costa Rica value almost double in Costa Rica as the identical product bought by the identical firm in neighboring nations. Many really feel it’s unfair to offer away Costa Rica’s assets to different nations with little profit to the country whereas they’re requested to pay larger taxes.


Tuna are probably the most prized fish on the business market and have a a lot greater market worth than different species. Many individuals have no idea how a lot of the tuna captured in Costa Rica are caught. A big purse seine vessel cruises the ocean in search of apparent indicators that tuna is current. This could possibly be feeding birds, tuna feeding, big pods of dolphins, or floating objects like tree trunks. Typically these boats will place synthetic floating objects, that are unlawful to make use of in Costa Rica as a result of they appeal to juvenile fish.


Plenty of the tuna caught listed here are caught underneath dolphins. Dolphins and tuna have a symbiotic relationship and swim collectively — the dolphin on the floor and tuna under. They may use velocity boats to corral the dolphins into the web. In the event you internet the dolphin, additionally, you will catch the tuna. Prior to now, as much as 6 million dolphins perished in tuna boat nets till there was a public outcry.

Immediately boats fishing legally will decrease one finish of the web to launch the dolphin. In line with knowledge, the mortality of dolphin is now round 1,000 yearly utilizing this technique, however Sierra Goodman, founder and president of the Vida Marina Basis in Drake Bay, on the northern Pacific aspect of the Osa Peninsula, believes the precise variety of dolphin mortality is very underreported. Goodman’s concern is that tuna corporations that fish and internet dolphins are labeling their product dolphin protected.

“Ok, so this is my question: Are the dolphins still chased and encircled in the nets to get the tuna?” she requested. “Are dolphins involved in any way for tuna that is labeled dolphin-safe? Because any time free and wild dolphins are chased and entrapped, it is not dolphin-safe. I saw what happens in those nets. While I’m sure the lowering of nets helps with mortality, what about stress factors? We know that these tuna boats are out there for days in a row netting the same group of Costa Rican spinner dolphins.”

One query is whether or not the boats fishing illegally cautious with dolphins. They’ve been witnessed throwing explosives from helicopters or velocity boats to herd dolphin. And do they take the time to ensure the dolphin is launched from the web rigorously? I’ve by no means recognized a thief who sweeps up the glass after he has damaged your window to enter your home.

Inexperienced Stick and pole & line

Inexperienced Stick is the widespread identify for a piece of fishing gear that was initially created from a lengthy, inexperienced bamboo shoot that has a primary line hooked up to a gadget that’s designed to make a giant splash on the water. It’s trolled a couple hundred yards or extra behind the fishing vessel. Off the primary line, a half dozen or extra lures are positioned at intervals. This technique has a 99 % catch price of tuna in comparison with catching species aside from the focused tuna.

Pole and line is principally carried out by chumming the water with reside minnows to maintain the tuna shut in a feeding frenzy and catching them one a time, serving to meet the rising demand for sustainably caught seafood — seafood caught with out impacting the surroundings or different species. Inexperienced Sticks now made from fiberglass are nothing new. They’ve been utilized in Japan and within the Japanese United States for years. Innovating business fishermen like Robert Nunes has been utilizing them some success in Costa Rican waters. After FECOP provided the technical help to the federal government, INCOPESCA started issuing licenses to fish inexperienced sticks this yr.

Adam Baske, Director of the Pole and Line Basis based mostly in the UK, just lately visited Costa Rica and with FECOP employees met with long-line business fishermen in Puntarenas and Quepos to debate the tuna business and the market want for sustainably caught tuna. They heard the identical from each teams. They defined that regardless that the game fishermen are seeing a nice improve in tuna catches because the Tuna Decree in 2014, there’s nonetheless an excessive amount of tuna being taken illegally or licensed to overseas vessels for them to efficiently fish extra selective gear and make a respectable revenue.

In accordance with them, they might adore it if they might. Tuna is a premium-value fish and would turn into the goal species, taking strain off sharks and billfish as bycatch in longline fishing. The incidental catch fee of different species would drop drastically. FECOP then met with six marine associated NGOs to debate the difficulty.

This author has lived in Costa Rica labored in fishing happening 28 years and is a naturalized Costa Rican citizen. His spouse is Tica, his youngsters are Tico and at many occasions feels as if he’s at coronary heart a Tico trapped within the physique of a gringo. He has been right here lengthy sufficient to know if only one sector lobbies for change, nothing occurs. When totally different sector joins on a widespread aim, change occurs. The first tuna reform in 2014 is a good instance of sport fisherman working along with longline fishermen. Giving tuna again to the Ticos would have a domino impact for all teams. Higher revenue for struggling coastal communities, much less bycatch of billfish, sharks, turtles, dolphin and different marine mammals. With extra tuna obtainable, the longliners might see the benefit of switching gear as a result of the fish can be out there to them and NGO’s defending sharks, turtles and billfish would all profit additionally.

It isn’t a simple process, however working collectively, it may be finished. There’s a petition to the federal government at The website is in English and Spanish; simply click on your choice.

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