Strengthening of sea turtle conservation legislation in Costa Rica

Strengthening of sea turtle conservation legislation in Costa Rica

Roxana Silman1, Lucinda K. Taft2, and Rolando Castro3
1 Caribbean Conservation Corporation, Apdo. Postal 246-2050, San Pedro, Costa Rica
2 Caribbean Conservation Corporation, 4424 NW 13th Street Suite A-1, Gainesville, Florida 32609, USA
3 Centro de Derecho Ambiental y de los Recursos Naturales, Apdo. Postal 134-2050, San Pedro, Costa Rica

Laws protecting green turtles (Chelonia mydas) on Tortuguero beach, Costa Rica, were first passed in 1963. In 1969, protection was extended to encompass waters up to five kilometers off the nesting beach. Tortuguero National Park was created in 1970 and expanded in 1975, increasing protection for the sea turtles, the nesting beach, the adjacent rainforest, and the marine area up to 12 mi offshore. Nevertheless, the tradition of turtle hunting continued in the region. In 1983, a decree was passed to control the fishery of green turtles in Costa Rica’s Caribbean waters. Annually 30 permits were issued, each allowing capture of 20 green turtles per month from June through August, for a total legal take of 1,800 green turtles. The quota was not enforced, no studies were ever conducted to monitor the impact of the take, and poaching of green turtles out of Tortuguero National Park increased in the mid-1990s. The existence of a legal market meant that turtles caught illegally could also be sold openly. To address this situation, 13 organizations, businesses and individuals with interest in the Tortuguero turtles brought a lawsuit to stop the legal fishery. Subsequently, in February 1999, the Constitutional Court of Costa Rica revoked the decree and banned the turtle fishery. A new law, strengthening sea turtle protection nationally, was approved by a legislative sub-commission on the environment, and should become law in 2000.

Costa Rican congressman Dr. Eliseo Vargas and his assistants Lic. Anabelle Rivera and Lic. Mario García are thanked for their efforts and dedication to strengthen sea turtle legislation. Many thanks to all congressmen whom have supported the new sea turtle legislation.

Abstract of paper presented at 20th International Symposium, 2000