Photos provided by Una Ola
Background on the Issue
The Costa Rican community of surfers, artisan fishermen, and environmental protection organizations is galvanizing international opposition to a recently approved tuna farm that will pollute the biodiverse nearshore waters close to Pavones and Punta Banco on the southern edge of the Golfo Dulce.
Costa Rica’s Environmental Secretariat and the Ministry of the Environment have ignored a court order and approved a massive tuna farm project in coastal waters near Pavones in southern Costa Rica, the initiative of Granjas Atuneras S.A., a Venezuelan company. The project threatens the economic and environmental livelihood of many of the country’s coastal communities and natural resources. The area’s two major economic engines are fishing and tourism, both of which are seriously threatened by the pollution problems associated with fish farming. Read more about the problems associated with fish farms on the ocean here.
A tuna farm consists of floating cages where juvenile wild tuna are fattened until they reach commercial size when they are then exported to Japan to supply the massive sushi market. Young tuna are captured in the open ocean in large nets, and then transported 90-800 km (many dying along the way) to nearshore feeding cages. Once inside, the tuna are fed imported sardines or a meat and fish oil concentrate. In Australia, contaminated sardines spread a virus to local fish stocks and bird populations; in southern Chile in 2007-2008, salmon fish farms have gravely damaged coastal ecosystems.
The project would be located 1.5 kilometers from the coast along Costa Rica’s southern Pacific coast at the entrance to the Golfo Dulce. It involves serious risks to the local economy and environment, including the following:
- The project will not create local employment opportunities, and it will force job loss because the area is a tourist destination and famous for the perfect surf at Pavones.
- Tuna cages are impediments to sea turtles, dolphins, and other marine animals;
- The massive quantities of fecal waste from the tuna will contaminate the Golfo Dulce’s waters;
- Disease is easily spread from tuna in captivity to the local fish population, thus affecting local artisanal fishermen;
PRETOMA is a Costa Rican non-profit marine conservation and research organization working to protect ocean resources and promote sustainable fisheries policies in Costa Rica and Central America.If you would like to support Pretoma’s “No Tuna Farms” campaign, visit www.pretoma.org or contact program manager Andy Bystrom at firstname.lastname@example.org
Update, December 2011
On November 7, 2011 the Costa Rican government announced that it will no longer consider the Granjas Atuneras de Golfito SA’s petition to construct 80 tuna cages a mile off shore of Gulfo Dulce. The project would have diminished water quality in an area with immense biodiversity and the world class surf break, Pavones.
Costa Rica’s Evnironmental Secrretariat (SETENA) decision to stop the project was based on a Supreme Court order against the project, falsification of information in the company’s environmental impact assesment and the expiration of permission granted by SETENA in 2004.
Save The Waves Coalition is happy to see the project halted and will continue to monitor the issue for the years to come.