Ban on green turtle fishing results in increased cooperation between fishermen and conservationists

Roxana Silman1, Danny Rankin2, Randall Aruz3, and Sebastian Troëng1
1 Caribbean Conservation Corporation, Apdo. Postal 246-2050, San Pedro, Costa Rica
2 Asociación de Pescadores de Cieneguita y Portete (ASCIENPE), Apdo. Postal 1435-7300, Limón, Costa Rica
3 PRETOMA – Sea Turtle Restoration Project, Apdo. Postal 1203-1100 Tibás, Costa Rica

The cooperation between conservationists and turtle fishermen in Limón, Costa Rica has traditionally been limited due to opposing views on turtle exploitation. In 1989, an effort was made to increase the communication between the sides but these activities were temporary and the dialog stopped. In 1998, a multi-institutional commission comprising NGOs, local and national government agencies was set up to review the use and protection of sea turtles in Limón. After visits to the licensed turtle slaughterhouse and discussions with fishermen, the commission concluded that enforcement of the quota for green turtle harvest was insufficient. Fishermen could sell turtle products openly, with or without permits. Hence there was no incentive for them to seek cooperation. In February 1999, the Constitutional Court of Costa Rica ruled to ban the green turtle fishery. Increased communication began after the court ruling. Two fishermen participated in a regional sea turtle conservation workshop in April 1999. Additional meetings between conservationists and fishermen followed. A joint proposal to seek government compensation for the turtle fishermen was developed and other cooperative projects were identified. To date, the Ministry of Environment has approved the proposal and funds are expected to be made available to the affected fishermen in the near future. A joint awareness campaign with posters and TV advertisements has been implemented. Possible future activities include the construction of a cooperative run processing plant for sea food produce, turtle watching by boat, a national awareness campaign, a nesting beach project, construction of a museum/visitors’ center, sale of legally harvested turtle eggs from Ostional, education for fishermen with regards to sea turtles and sustainable fishing techniques.

The Fishermen’s Association of Cieneguita and Portete, Caribbean Conservation Corporation, the Ministry of Environment and Energy of Costa Rica and PRETOMA are thanked for their cooperative efforts. Caribbean Conservation Corporation funded the travel of three of the authors to participate in this symposium.

Abstract of paper presented at 20th International Symposium, 2000