Shrimp Trawling on trial in the Constitutional Court of Costa Rica
PRETOMA files law suit against Costa Rican shrimp trawl industry for failure to protect turtles and abide by environmental regulations.
|Dead green turtle on shrimp trawler deck|
San José, Costa Rica
- On March 28, 2008, the Constitutional
Court of Costa Rica
accepted a lawsuit suit filed by the non-profit PRETOMA,
against the President of the Board of Directors of the Costa Rican Fisheries Agency, INCOPESCA, for violation of
fundamental citizen rights to a healthy environment, established in Articles
11, 33, 39, 41 and 50 of Costa
Rica’s Constitution. The Court gave INCOPESCA 30 days to reply to PRETOMA’s charges.
The accusation stems from studies performed
by PRETOMA which expose a moribund shrimp trawling industry. Shrimp populations are overfished, and
production and exports have declined dramatically during the last 20
years.The industry is responsible for
discarding over 6,000 tons of bycatch and drowning as many as 15,000 sea turtles
per year. Measures designed to mitigate
the impact of this fishery, such as the mandatory use of turtle saving
technology or the creation of marine protected areas are widely ignored,
facilitated by official indifference. Furthermore,
the industry receives millions of dollars worth of subsidized fuel.
Copy of the report
The lawsuit was filed last March 11, and is
currently supported by 13 artisinal fishing organizations,
who have officially requested the Court to include them in the legal process as
“We have been calling on INCOPESCA to do
something about the shrimp trawl boat problem for years, but have never had a
positive response, they just keep raping the ocean floor with no control nor
consideration for other ocean users”, complained Rafael Bastos, President of
the Labor Union of Artisinal Fishermen of Puntarenas. “We hope this lawsuit will finally put an end
to, or significantly reduce, shrimp trawling in coastal waters, which should
allow artisinal fisheries a chance to recover, as well as the sea turtles,”said a hopeful Bastos.
“This shoots down the myth that PRETOMA
does not get along with fishermen”, said Randall Arauz, Executive Director of
PRETOMA.“In our quest for responsible
fishing, environmentalists and fishermen must work together to attain fisheries
reform in an ecosystem context, but the wasteful the shrimp trawl industry just
does not accommodate to this objective”, pointed out Arauz.
In the lawsuit, PRETOMA and the 13
artisinal fishing organizations are calling for:
1. A 70% reduction of the shrimp
trawl fleet, currently of 60 vessels. Permanent closure of the Gulf of Nicoya
and the Golfo Dulce to shrimp trawling.
2. Mandate to remaining vessels,
to operate 5 miles
off the coast, as well as the obligatory presence of observers.
3. A national certification to
identify shrimp caught responsibly by artisanal fishermen.