SAN JOSE – Two activists are on hunger strike and chained to the bars surrounding Costa Rica’s presidential house to demand that the country’s leader Carlos Alvarado repeal a new law that revives the practice of sea trawling.
The two activists, who identified themselves only as Ana Maria and Melissa, told EFE that they had been chained up since Friday and that their hunger strike will continue until the president vetoes the law and “fulfills his campaign commitment” not to support it.
“Trawling is totally unsustainable from an environmental point of view and it even establishes an extractivist model in the country. We are supposed to have a sustainable development model and trawling would go against this. It would also have a great impact on coastal populations and artisanal fishermen,” Ana Maria told EFE.
The two women are assisted by other protesters who have set up tents and awnings to shelter them from the rain and sun.
On Oct. 22, Congress approved the “Law for the sustainable use of shrimp fishing” with 28 votes in favor and 18 against, in the second and final vote.
This fishing had been prohibited in Costa Rica since 2013 due to a ruling of the Constitutional Chamber that considered it threatening to the environment.
However, another recent ruling by the Constitutional Chamber did not find defects of unconstitutionality in the law that revives this activity, as a study by the state National Institute of Fisheries and Aquaculture, questioned by environmental organizations, indicates that the use of mechanisms to reduce bycatch are effective.
More than 100 organizations have asked the president to veto the law, including the MarViva Foundation, which defines trawling as “the towing of a large net on the seabed” that “catches many other species that do not constitute main objective of the activity, including fish of commercial and non-commercial interest, sharks, turtles, mollusks, crustaceans, urchins, starfish and other invertebrates.”
“Chains and weights are attached to the bottom of the net that act as a ballast that sweeps the bottom (of the seabed),” explained MarViva.
In addition, a group of eight deputies sent a letter to Alvarado to ask for a repeal.
The law has not yet been referred by Congress to the president. Once the president has the text in his hands, he has 10 days to decide whether to veto it or not.
The deputies who promoted this law see it is a way to increase jobs in coastal areas, which are the poorest in the country, and say that the technical and scientific studies carried out establish that with regulation and use of devices, fishing of other species is significantly reduced.
Environmental organizations and even the Ministry of the Environment have stated that the studies carried out are not robust.