Costa Rica Delays Protection of Dolphins

SAN JOSE, Costa Rica, March 23, 2021 /PRNewswire/ — FECOP, the Costa Rican Fishing Federation, expressed their disappointment in the…

SAN JOSE, Costa Rica, March 23, 2021 /PRNewswire/ — FECOP, the Costa Rican Fishing Federation, expressed their disappointment in the delay of a tuna law reform that would have given better protection to dolphins and other marine life that is captured as bycatch in the process of purse seine tuna fishing in Costa Rica. Costa Rica is one of the few countries that still allows tuna purse sein boats to capture dolphins while fishing for yellowfin tuna. The two species swim together in the Eastern Tropical Pacific. The practice of encircling dolphins to capture tuna started in the 1950´s and continues today. More than 6 million dolphins have perished in this type of fishing. Today they use a system to release the dolphins and it is estimated around 2000 perish yearly, but they are constantly harassed, and the process often separates mothers from offspring. Those young usually perish also. Nearly 85% of all purse sein lances in Costa Rica involve the capture of dolphins.

Costa Rica does not have a tuna fleet and sells licenses to foreign vessels usually from Venezuela and Nicaragua. They could operate within 12 miles of the coast and in 2014 were moved out to 45 miles. Since then, the populations of dolphins and other species that are bycatch in tuna boats like, turtles, sharks, manta rays, and sport fish have flourished in the 45 mile protected zone.

There are two bills in Congress in Costa Rica that have been in debate the last two years for tuna reform that would move the tuna boats out between 80 and 100 miles. The dolphin super pods are coastal animals and the move would save many from harassment or death. They passed the first vote and then this week the bills were suddenly pulled for a further six month review. Both national fishermen and conservationists have been lobbying to move the tuna boats out 200 miles and the proposals from the government is 80 and 100 miles. The only ones against the plan is the tuna industry. 

Those in favor are afraid the delay will push the issue into the next electoral period and delay the process even further. Costa Rica who is famous internationally for its «green image» and has great protection in place for people interacting with dolphins. It doesn´t seem to feel the same way when it comes to tuna purse sein boats fishing over them.

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