Costa Rica’s Ombudsman’s Office issued a statement Tuesday urging the government to prioritize marine resource management. According to research by the agency – which is responsible for petitioning the state on behalf of Costa Rican citizens – climate change, poor technology, inadequate marine management and a lack of political will have depleted the country’s marine resources, leaving coastal residents who rely on fishing with few options to support their families.
“Some 15,000 families rely on fishing to support themselves,” the statement said. “Currently those families are in crisis.”
The Ombudsman’s Office recommended the administration of President Luis Guillermo Solís make marine conservation a priority issue. To do this, the agency urged the country’s fishing management entities to create more Responsible Fishing Areas near coastal communities. Started in 2008, the Responsible Fishing Areas program creates restricted fishing zones near coastal towns. These areas are co-managed by the Costa Rican Fisheries Institute (Incopesca) and the communities in order to preserve the area’s fishing resources.
Responsible Fishing Areas currently occupy more than 100,000 hectares of Costa Rica’s marine territory, but according to artisanal fishing leaders, illegal fishing remains a persistent problem. To counter this, government officials last week united the country’s 10 Responsible Fishing Areas into a shared network. The new National Network of Responsible Fishing Areas will allow coastal communities to share resources and confront obstacles as a unified entity.