Help FECOP Fight Illegal, Non-Sustainable Fishing in Costa Rica – Sign the Petition – Tuna for Ticos
It is estimated that up to 26% of tuna taken in Costa Rican territorial waters by foreign tuna purse seiners is unreported, taken illegally, never makes it to a Costa Rican port, and doesn’t benefit Costa Rica in any manner.
The tuna issue in Costa Rica is not new. A FECOP study in 2013 showed that Costa Rica tuna was being overexploited and the country was only benefiting $37 a ton from tuna captured here. FECOP presented a project “Tuna for Ticos” to President Laura Chinchilla and she signed the “tuna decree” at the tail end of her administration moving tuna seiners a total of 45 miles from the coast and protecting areas around sea mounts and Cocos Island. A total of 200,000 square kilometers of territorial was labeled for protection.
Luis Guillermo Solis delayed the passing of the decree when he succeeded Chinchilla as President but the “tuna decree” eventually went into effect in 2014. FECOP science in 2017 convinced the government to limit the number of licenses awarded to foreign vessels and ordered the tuna licenses reduced from 43 issued to 13. Evaluating past landing records this moved saved 25 tons of would have been marlin bycatch as well as sharks, turtles, dorado and marine mammals (mainly dolphin, since they have a symbiotic relationship with yellowfin tuna).
“Greenstick Fishing,” a method of trolling for tuna commercially with almost zero by-catch has been used by innovators in the commercial industry for some time here in Costa Rica. To make greenstick fishing legal in Costa Rica, technical studies were necessary and FECOP team with INA, and INCOPESCA to produce scientific and technical support and the greenstick license was approved in 2018.
Inside the 45-mile protected zone the tuna resource has made an astounding recovery. FECOP recently met with representatives of the commercial longline fleet in Puntarenas and Quepos to discuss the tuna issue and fishing with greensticks and other more selective types of gear. Consumers of tuna are more aware now and fish caught in this manner and they have a better market price than tuna caught by other means.
We heard the same in both places. There is still not enough tuna available to Costa Rican commercial fleets to make it viable and profitable to fish greenstick or pole and line, one by one tuna. They explained foreign fleets were taking most of the available tuna with little benefit to Costa Rica and illegal tuna boats were in fact stealing resources from Costa Rica. With all Costa Ricans working together, commercial, sport, ONG’s and the public, we can convince the government to look after its own and not give away our resource to foreign interests.
The long-term benefit will be more fish available for TICO fisherman. With that other fishing methods will be feasible, and less turtles, sharks, billfish, and marine mammals will perish in nets or by non-selective types of fishing.
Make an Impact!
SIGN THE OFFICIAL PETITION BELOW TO SUPPORT THIS PROJECT
Presidency of the Republic
Legislative Assembly Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock
National Institute of Fisheries and Aquaculture
Ministry of Environment and Energy
Vice Ministry of Water and Seas
National Coast Guard Service
The situation of illegal fishing that is happening in our country is a serious problem that affects our marine resources, the national economy and that of our communities. It is for this reason that through this petition we request better controls and effective surveillance for foreign tuna fleets. Better penalization mechanisms for those who break the law of our country and exploit our resources indiscriminately. As well as support and prioritization for national fleets in the consolidation of sustainable tuna fishing in our territorial waters.
Conservation International and Coastguard research, 100 vessels had suspicious fishing activities (2016-2017)
Carlos Manuel Rodriguez, Minister of Environment, declaring in radio show, 50 million of dollars lost each year to illegal fishing.
llegal fishing in Isla del Coco
Global fish watch map that report possible IUU activity within 45 miles (2015-Oct 2018) (Look in the left bottom corner a play bottom and click it)
About FECOP – (NGO) More than 60,000 direct and indirect jobs, as well as a contribution of 330 million dollars to Costa Rica’s gross domestic product, are among the benefits obtained from this activity. In addition to this information recognized and produced by different sources, sport fishing has other less visible impacts and benefits. It represents a socioeconomic sector with a special dynamic that needs to be understood from a scientific and technical perspective so as to boost its growth and contribution to Costa Rican society.
FECOP assumes this challenge and will work with the sector in the generation of knowledge to benefit both the sport fishing and the fisheries sectors and Costa Rican society as a whole.
Learn more fishcostarica.org
The Dolphin Breeding Ground Debacledolphins deserve our protection, an ongoing petition regarding a new development is misleading, according to the author Todd Staley
This fisherman is about to open a can of worms here for the second time.
The first time was when I agreed with a national legislator who suggested opening the National Parks to sport and small-scale artisanal fishing. Thirty-eight NGOs screamed, “No!” I suggested they open them and charge a fee to fish there to raise money for enforcement patrols, which were, and still, are nearly non-existent.
Here I go again, about to raise the hair on the backs of the necks of many in the environmental crowd. It started when a post hit my inbox with a petition sponsored by Planet Rehab.org on the Change.org website, which allows anyone in the world to start an online petition for free. This petition urged people to help stop a Hilton Curio hotel from being built in Puerto Jiménez, in the country’s Southern Zone.
The petition’s headline read, “Prevent Hilton from building a hotel on top of a Dolphin Breeding Ground.” The sub-headline that followed was a stern message to Hilton which read, “Hilton, we’re breaking up with you, so we can save the dolphins before it’s too late!” Over 50,000 people have signed the petition, and they appear to be gaining more signatures every day.
A very wise man once gave me some very sage advice when he told me, “Always put your cards on the table, because once they are on the table, they are off the table.” So here come my cards.
I am very well-versed on this subject. For the last 18 years I have walked the pier at Crocodile Bay as Fishing Director, sending thousands of tourists out sport fishing. The Crocodile Bay property is the site where the Hilton will be built. I also know the person behind the petition very well. After five decades on the water, I also know a little bit about dolphins.
If you think I am going to defend the Hilton project in this article, you will be sorely disappointed. The developers are big boys and can do that for themselves. Because I spend a lot time working with marine conservation and am employed by the developers, people often corner me looking for my opinion. I have never given an opinion pro or con; it’s not my place to defend the project. What I have defended against many times is fabricated statements from environmental zealots who prey on uninformed or uneducated people to support their opinion for whatever their cause is.
The Change.org petition states that the area in question is “essential for the reproduction of many marine species, potentially destroying endemic dolphin breeding grounds and putting all aquatic marine life in imminent danger.”
It continues, “This large-scale Hilton Hotel Botanika Resort can only be stopped by an urgent appeal to the directors of Hilton Curio Worldwide, alerting them to the potential damage their project will cause.”
The key word in both those statements is “potential.” It is a word that can be used as a giant loophole to cover one’s tail when making outlandish statements.
Maybe I could post a petition on Change.org to my own advantage. It would read something like this. “Todd Staley is a fisherman and mediocre writer. He has a couple of tattoos and on the weekends when it is not raining, he rides his Harley Davidson. Staley could potentially roust up a bunch of bikers and pillage your pueblo. Please donate today to buy him a new boat to keep him on the water and off the street.”
I slowly waded through many of the comments left by people who signed the Hilton petition. After I got through the vulgarities and the threats to never sleep in a Hilton again, I stumbled on some I really liked:
“Please verify the findings on marine biologists for the claim in this petition and look to relocate to a less fragile location.”
“This is unacceptable if these dolphins loose there breeding ground were would they Go, for all we know if would take them years or months to find a new place to breed and are dolphins would be more endanger then ever.”
“Apparently they ( Hilton) did not research this very well to even think about building on a Dolphin breeding ground.”
And my personal favorite, “Dolphins are people too.”
Why is that my favorite? Because “dolphins are people too” is a lot closer to the truth than anything else I read. After observing dolphins while fishing for over fifty years, I decided to ask some marine experts, “What exactly is a dolphin breeding ground?” I sought the opinion of a marine biologist, a marine mammal expert, and a woman who has worked alongside dolphins and whales here in Costa Rica for years.
They told me that reproductive habits of dolphins are not defined exclusively by the need to perpetuate the species: like humans, these cetaceans mate for pleasure with individuals of the opposite sex, of the same genus or even a different species from their own, so talking about reproductive habits in strict terms does not apply to dolphins. Some researchers think that their recreational sexuality has social purposes. When a female feels she will deliver her calf, she tends to move away from her pod and separates herself to an area near the water surface to facilitate the first breath of her calf. There is no particular area dolphins go to mate or birth.
There are no dolphin “no-tell motels” or maternity wards. They mate whenever and wherever they happen to be when the mood hits them, and birth wherever they are when the time comes. There is no such thing as a “dolphin breeding ground.”
If the people who posted that petition are really just concerned about dolphins, I suggest they push away their tuna salad and worry about the large pods of dolphins that are netted hundreds of times to catch the tuna that swim under them. The dolphins are later released. A few dolphins die in the process; I’m sure the dolphins don’t like it. Thankfully, there is a fast-growing trend and demand for sustainably caught fish, and tuna fishermen are beginning to search out selective gear with little or no bycatch.
Anger or fear are great motivators. But in this case, 50,000 people – and counting – have been misled.
I really love conservation work. The politics of conservation can at times be quite frustrating, and the business of conservation can be at times disgusting. NGOs will sometimes work on similar projects but never communicate with each other for fear of losing credit for a success or even potential donor money. If they communicated, they could get things done faster and more cheaply, but conservation and environmental work are sometimes big business. Unfortunately, there are unscrupulous people out there who will misuse donor money or even advertise for fake causes to raise money.
Sadly, this “dolphin breeding ground” petition, and the reaction to it, only fortifies an opinion I have held for some time. That is the difference between a conservationist and an environmentalist: a conservationist makes decisions based on science, while an environmentalist at times makes science based on decisions.
Read Todd Staley’s Wetline Costa Rica columns here.
Todd Staley has run fishing sport operations on both coasts of Costa Rica for over 25 years. He recently decided to take some time off to devote full time to marine conservation. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Educational programs for Costa Rican youth. Through training workshops, and Fun Kids and Family fishing tournaments, FECOP is bringing together Costa Rica’s youth while teaching about conservation of our waterways and the benefit and importance of sport fishing in the coastal communities. Investing in the next generations is investing in the sustainability of our activities.