Costa Rican Authorities Reject Oil Exploration Along Caribbean Coast

Date: March 04, 2002
Contact: Roxana Silman
Phone: INT+506-297-5510

The Legislative Assembly approves Law for Protection, Conservation and Recuperation of Sea Turtle Populations

SAN JOSÉ, COSTA RICA – The National Technical Environmental Secretariat (SETENA) of Costa Rica’s Ministry of the Environment and Energy released a 52 page justification for why they have rejected the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) presented by the Harken Energy Corporation in order to obtain permission to drill for oil off the country’s Caribbean coast.

SETENA’s decision was a unanimous vote by the seven plenary commission members to reject the EIA as the project was deemed “pressreleases.php?page=not environmentally viable.” The 52 page justification for the ruling provided legal, environmental and social arguments for rejecting the project. In addition, the ruling stated that the EIA had ample errors, lacked important information and showed weakness with regards to the environmental impacts of the proposed activity. The potential negative impacts the proposed drilling would have had on the area’s globally important sea turtle populations and turtle related tourism were important factors in SETENA’s decision.

A resolution, unanimously approved by more than 800 sea turtle biologists and conservationists at the 21st International Annual Symposium on Sea Turtle Biology and Conservation, calling for the Costa Rican government to ban all oil exploration in its Caribbean marine areas, was cited in SETENA’s justification. According to the scientists, the drilling not only threatened globally significant sea turtle nesting beaches, but also several endangered species of sea turtles that use the offshore areas for mating and migration.

The communities along Costa Rica’s Caribbean coast make their living predominantly from ecotourism and local fishing. Each year, more than 50,000 tourists visit Tortuguero National Park to see nesting green turtles, and more than 100,000 visitors enjoy the beaches and lowland forests of Cahuita National Park. Sea turtles are also important cultural icons for many indigenous cultures. Costa Rica has recognized its precious Caribbean environment by creating six sanctuaries along its Caribbean coast, including Tortuguero and Cahuita National Parks and Gandoca-Manzanillo National Wildlife Refuge.

“This is a landmark ruling,” says Roxana Silman, National Director for the Caribbean Conservation Corporation. Silman stated “The potentially negative impacts identified by grassroots and environmental organizations were taken into consideration by SETENA in their ruling that the project is not environmentally viable. This is an important victory for sea turtles and the environment.”

The oil company has three days to appeal SETENA’s decision.

High quality images can be found in our online Press Room:

The Sea Turtle Conservancy, formerly known as the Caribbean Conservation Corporation, is a not-for-profit, 501(c)3 organization based in Florida with offices and projects in several other locations. The Sea Turtle Conservancy is the oldest and most accomplished sea turtle organization in the world. Since its founding in 1959, the Sea Turtle Conservancy’s work has greatly improved the survival outlook for several species of sea turtles. The Sea Turtle Conservancy has as its mission the protection of sea turtles and the habitats upon which they depend. To achieve its mission, the Sea Turtle Conservancy uses research, habitat protection, public education, community outreach, networking and advocacy as its basic tools. These tools are applied in both international and domestic programs focusing on geographic areas that are globally important to sea turtle survival. For more information, visit the STC website or call (800) 678-7853.