Trawler caught dragging its nets in the Caletas-Arío National Wildlife Refuge (CANWR) in April of 2009.(August 7, 2013 – San José, Costa Rica).

Foto Sonia J

Picture of shrimp trawler “Sonia J”, taken April 17 of 2009, 19:52 hours, position 09.69162º N, 85.30670º O, illegally dragging its trawl nets in the protected waters of the Caletas-Arío National Wildlife Refuge

The Environmental Administrative Tribune (Tribunal Ambiental Administrativo, TAA) ordered Nelson Marín, director of the Tempisque Conservation Area (Área Conservación Tempisque, ACT) to perform the corresponding study to determine the value of economic damage caused by the “Sonia J.”  The study must be based on the total catch of the trawler, assuming that the total catch was caught illegally within the boundaries of the CANWR (

Video Evidence:

This case has lingered for over four years, without any legal actions taken against the perpetrators as of yet.  “Sonia J” was caught dragging her nets in the protected waters of the refuge on April 17 of 2009.  The following May 6 PRETOMA, a Costa Rican marine conservation organization, simultaneously filed suit at the Direction of Judicial Fishery Procedures of the Costa Rican Fishery Institute (INCOPESCA), and at the TAA, attaching evidence such as photographs, video, witnesses, and GPS position points.

Almost three years later, and by recommendation of the Direction of Judicial Fishery Procedures to the Executive Presidency of INCOPESCA, the case of the “Sonia J” was filed, as according to them “reasonable” doubts existed regarding the position of the trawler (ODPA-RLP-PA-2011).  The defending lawyer of “Sonia J” was none other than the Vice President of INCOPESCA himself, Alvaro Moreno, who during the hearing held on December 2 of 2009, questioned the accuracy of a modern hand-held Garmin GPS.

Position of the “Sonia J”

“Fortunately, the case is still open in the TAA,” expressed Mariano Castro, of Pretoma.  “This must be used as a case study by the different authorities, because if the culprits for illegal fishing are not properly and timely punishes, it will be difficult to discourage more illegal fishing in the future,” affirmed Castro.

“The Caletas-Arío National Wildlife Refuge was created to protect the area´s biodiversity, including 4 species of sea turtles (leatherback, olive ridley, green and hawksbill) that nest on the sandy beaches, from destructive shrimp trawling activities,” pointed out Randall Arauz, of PRETOMA.  “The coastal communities of Nandayure are doing their part to sustainably use their marine resources, among which outstand sea turtles and spotted snappers, because of which it is necessary to eliminate these illegal fishing activities that do so much social and environmental damage,” sentenced Arauz.

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