Sustainably harvested fish are the wave of the future, according to Marco Freer, manager of Pezcarnes, the fish and meat sales division of Wal-Mart Central America. “Within 10 years, customers will no longer buy fish unless it is certified sustainable,” predicted Freer at a seminar in San José last month.
The conference, co-sponsored by the Japanese International Cooperation Agency (JICA), National University (UNA) and the Costa Rican Fisheries Institute (INCOPESCA), highlighted various projects over the past five years in the NicoyaGulf, made possible with the assistance of Japanese scientists.
According to Luis Sierra, director of the project with the NationalUniversity, the project was a success because it united three otherwise independent groups in a broadscale research effort – which he said will help scientists better understand, and therefore manage, the ailing fisheries of the Pacific gulf.
“We must empower the fishermen so they make better use of their own natural resources,” he said.
According to Hubert Araya, of INCOPESCA, the Gulf of Nicoya suffers from three major problems: over-exploitation of marine resources, contamination and destruction of habitat.
The baseline studies made possible by the cooperation of these agencies, he said, include the aging of fish populations, mapping of bottom contours in the gulf, and tracking water temperatures, red tide and other variables.
“If we don’t manage the gulf with these variables in mind, things will only get much worse,” he said.
And according to Wal-Mart’s Freer, this effect will trickle down throughout the industry.
“How can we sell a filet of corvina to a customer if we test the water in the Gulf of Nicoya and it is polluted,” he said.
As studies in the gulf continue, large-scale fishing will be prohibited this year – as in past years – during the months of May, June and July, according to a decree published recently in the official government daily La Gaceta.
The ban, according to Francisco Estrada, director of MarViva, a private Costa Rican conservation organization, is aimed at “recuperating species and populations that have their reproductive cycles in this gulf.”