One week after the world’s first yellowfin tuna farm project was approved to begin construction off Costa Rica’s southern Pacific coast, a group of 10 organizations – representing environmentalists, community groups, fishing associations and tourism businesses – announced they have filed an official complaint against the project with the Environment and Energy Ministry (MINAE) and are seeking the cancellation of all its permits and approvals.
According to a statement June 29, the organizations have filed complaints with MINAE’s Environmental Tribunal against the Environmental Secretariat (SETENA) – the part of MINAE that approved the project’s environmental-impact study – and MINAE’s water department, which also approved the project. The groups plan to file a suit with the Constitutional Chamber of the Supreme Court “in the coming days” as well as protest in front of the Legislative Assembly.
The planned tuna farm would be built near the mouth of the Golfo Dulce gulf by the Costa Rican company Granjas Atuneras de Golfito S.A., backed by Spanish and Venezuelan capital. The project, which would be the country’s first commercial fish farm in ocean waters, received the final go ahead from the Costa Rican Fisheries Institute (INCOPESCA) June 23, following MINAE’s approval (TT, June 30).
According to a statement from the environmental organization Fundación Vida Marina, it and other groups opposing the project believe it would “further the industrialization and destruction of the region, which is famous for its pristine environment.”
Furthermore, the statement continued, the groups are denouncing a “complete
lack of transparency” in the application process, and claim area fishermen, sportfishing operators, tourism groups and conservation organizations were “kept out of the process.”
The environmental group also said the environmental-impact study for the operation, a MINAE prerequisite for the farm’s approval, does not contain risk assessments, allegedly violating national law.
The planned farm comprises 10 giant circular cages/nets – 50 meters wide and 20 meters deep – grouped together approximately 2.8 kilometers from the coast, near Punta Banco. Each cage would contain approximately 120 tons of tuna.
Manuel Arroyo, a fisherman in the southern Pacific port city of Golfito for 75 years, told The Tico Times Wednesday that the farm would kill great quantities of fish in the gulf ’s waters and the food given to the caged tuna would pollute the waters and ocean floor, upsetting the area’s delicate ecosystem.
“People haven’t realized that they are creating a monster,” Arroyo said. “They’re crazy to think you can put a farm here in this gulf that has such strong currents. Any fish that gets near it will get caught and die.”
The Vida Marina statement alleged “multiple irreversible risks” that were left out of the environmental-impact study, such as the death of sea turtles and dolphins and negative impacts on traditional fishing and tourism/eco-tourism, “the two most important industries of the gulf.”
“The Golfo Dulce, with its delicate ecology and unique status as a tropical fjord, is the last place on earth where we should be developing an experiment such as this,” said Denise Echeverría of Vida Marina in the statement.
“The proposed project represents a threat to the biodiversity of the entire Gulf and the livelihoods of communities which depend on it, she added.”