Sustainable Fisheries Catches Momentum in Costa Rica

Nov 10, 2017

Just one year after launching the world’s first National Fisheries Platform, with GCP support, Costa Rica is making important headway towards creating a sustainable long-line industry for fishing large pelagics – such as tuna, swordfish and mahi-mahi.

In Recent years it has been a challenge for fishermen to access the fishing resource in Costa Rican waters, threatening the livelihoods of some 16,000 people directly involved as well as thousands more who work along the supply chain. And, demand is expected to only increase as large pelagics caught in the Costa Rican Pacific are mostly for export to big markets like the United States. Sustainable seafood strategies are urgently needed.

Led by the Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock, alongside the Costa Rican Institute of Fishing and Aquaculture and the Ministry of Environment and Energy, the National Platform for Sustainable Large Pelagics Fisheries was launch in December 2016. For the first time, there was a space where diverse stakeholders – such as representatives of long-line fishing, sport fishing, exporters, traders, restaurants, retailers, government authorities, academia, non-governmental organizations and even retailers in United States such as Chef Trading – could discuss the challenges that they face and what a sustainable industry for large pelagic might look like.

During 2017, stakeholders agreed on some of the most pressing challenges that they need to collectively address, which include: outdated technology, poor access to markets, illegal fishing and weak government capacity for fisheries management, research, monitoring, control and surveillance, and lack of constructive dialogue, among others.

Four working groups have now been set-up to find ways of overcoming these issues. Activities being explored include the use of precision fishing, developing responsible markets, protocols for reporting illegal fishing, and changing fishing practices to mitigate the impact on vital ecosystems. The ultimate goal is to develop and implement a National Action Plan and a Fishery Improvement Project (FIP), which is backed by the majority of stakeholders.

“This country must reach a balance between environment, economics and the social factors,” said the Minister of Agriculture, Luis Felipe Arauz Cavallini, at the December 2016 launch. “This Administration considers it of utmost urgency that these forums are opened so that the situations can be assessed from the perspective of every stakeholder, and based on this we can move collectively toward well-managed fisheries, with a vision of sustainable production.”

“The Platform is a necessary step for opening the doors to international markets, which increasingly demand more labels certifying that the products they trade come from responsible fishing and are not of illegal origin,” UNDP Resident Representative Alice Shackleford said.  

The national long-line fishery sector is participating optimistically in this initiative. “For us, this dialogue is an opportunity to show our commitment to responsible fishing, and the sector’s willingness to join national initiatives, allowing us to take our products to new sustainable markets,” said Mauricio González, Executive Director of the National Long-line Fishing sector.

​With momentum continuing to build, the Sustainable Fisheries Platform is now also attracting international interest, with actors such as Monterey Bay Aquarium and the Sustainable Fisheries Partnership expected to join the initiative soon, ensuring alignment with international standards of sustainable fisheries.