Current policies designed to cater to foreign sport fishing interests, say artisanal fishermen

After being stood-up for the second time by officials of the Costa Rican Fisheries and Aquaculture Institute, 125 artisanal fishermen of the Golfo Dulce decided to take matters into their own hands yesterday and held a peaceful protest at Incopesca’s office in the Southern Pacific port of Golfito.  The fishermen wish to discuss their concerns regarding the management of fisheries in the Golfo Dulce, and their concerns over the under recognition of their rights.

Incopesca 1Artisinal fishermen have been calling upon the Board of Directors of Incopesca to review the policies surround the management of fisheries in the Golfo Dulce, an area recently declared a “Responsible Fisheries Community Area” by Incopesca last August 17 (La Gaceta #159).  At first, the project was presented as an attempt to improve fisheries management of the Golfo Ducle.  In order to gain public support, the authorities called for the banning of shrimp trawling and gillnetting in the Golfo Dulce, while private funds would be used to buy out the shrimp trawl fleet and economically compensate gillnetters while they were trai
ned in more sustainable fishing techniques.  The private funds to do this were generously offered by the BillFish Foundation (www.billfish.org).  However, after the declaration of the Responsible Fisheries Area, the local artisanal fishermen feel they have been deceived, and recently submitted a demand to the Board of Incopesca to nullify the Responsible Fisheries Area.

Sure enough, an undisclosed amount of private funds (up in the millions of US Dollars) was used to compensate the shrimp trawlers NOT to fish in the Golfo, but no funds were destined to compensating the artisanal fishermen.  Furthermore, stripped of gillnetting arts, local fishermen are only allowed to use traps, which have never been tested in the Golfo Dulce before, nor have fishermen been trained on their use.  To make matters worse, artisanal fishermen will only be allowed to operate in the Golfo Dulce 3 months of the year, while the rest of the year they must operate within 30 miles of the coast.  Finally, the catch and use of live bait is forbidden, except for the sports fishing industry.  The fishermen believe that their underrepresentation by the one organization that is supposed to represent them, comes from a conflict of interest involving the Billfish Foundation’s representive in Golfito, Miguel Duran. Duran is currently enjoying a 6 month leave of absence from his official post as head of Incopesca in Golfito.

Incopesca 2“We are totally in favor of fishing restrictions and responsible fisheries practices”, said a determined Victor Rocha, President of the Golfito Fishery Sector Civilian Front.  “However, what Incopesca is doing is catering to the private interests of the sport fishing industry and the shrimp trawl industry, basing management on capricious policies that have no technical content, which only seek to eliminate the artisanal fishery sector for good and consolidate a Sport Fishing Reserve in the Golfo Dulce”.

After an hour of protesting, Incopesca promised that yet another meeting would be held, this time on Saturday in Puntarenas.  Golfito’s mayor, Jimmy Cubillo, promised to pay for the fishermen’s bus fair to Puntarenas and assured them that they would be attended by Incopesca officials even though Incopesca does not receive the public on Saturdays.

Stay tuned for more developments.

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    Current policies designed to cater to foreign sport fishing interests, say artisanal fishermen After being stood-up for the second time by officials of the Costa Rican Fisheries and Aquaculture Institute, 125 artisanal fishermen of the Golfo Dulce decided to take matters into their own hands yesterday and held a peaceful...