Venus Surf Adventures Costa Rica

Update**** El Golfo Dulce in danger again!!!

Thank you for all your support! Although the tuna project was temporarily stopped by the Costa Rican courts, they have been able to push the project past our appeals.

SETENA Approves Project Without Complying with Constitutional Court�s Request to Clarify Environmental Impact Study

(March 2, 2009 San Jos�, Costa Rica) � On February 16 the National Technical Environmental Secretary (SETENA) rejected an appeal for annulment presented by Pretoma on November 11, 2008, deciding instead to move forward in the approval process of the Tuna Farm Project in Golfito, according to resolution N� 3170-2008-SETENA, November 5, 2008. SETENA�s decision to approve the project comes without completing the Constitutional Court�s order to clear up inconsistencies found within the Environmental Impact Study (EIA) undertaken by the project�s Developer Granjas Atuneras Golfito S.A. and now places the decision to ratify the project with Mr. Roberto Dobles, the Environmental, Energy, and Telecomunications Minister (MINAET).

In July, 2006 Pretoma and the Punta Banco Association of Neighbors filed suit against the project, sighting the serious environmental impacts it might cause. What is still unknown is whether or not the large amounts of metabolic waste, produced by the tuna and dispersed by the currents, will be swept into the Golfo Dulce. These uncertainties, along with questions about the possible effects the project will have on sea turtles that nest along beaches close to the proposed project�s site, represent some of the study�s weaknesses of which the Constitutional Court has asked for clarification in the form of technical studies.

�It�s incoherent how SETENA chooses not to address the Constitutional Court�s doubts, while at the same time recognizing the project�s viability without even researching certain technical criteria that might show how the tuna cages will impact the Golfo Dulce�, mentioned Miguel G�mez, Pretoma�s political campaigns coordinator.

�We hope that the Minister is consistent with other court decisions in this case and asks SETENA to comply with the Constitutional Court�s mandate�, said Andy Bystrom, Pretoma�s communications coordinator.

The project proposes to install 10 tuna cages at the mouth of the Golfo Dulce. It was suspended by court order on May 9, 2007 due to a series of inconsistencies referring to contamination threats to the surrounding ecosystem and its impact on sea turtles.

Pretoma is a Costa Rican civil association of public interest, and is an active member of the international Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and the World Society for the Protection of Animals (WSPA).
Links to more info about Fish Farms

Tuna farming issues in Spain

Environmental Effects of Aquaculture - Environmental Defense Fund

Setting a course for sustainable marine aquaculture - US Commission on Sustainable Aquaculture

Guidelines for Determining Ecological Risk Assessment of Marine Aquaculture (pdf)

UN Intl. Code of Conduct for responsible fisheries (and individual country Report cards) (pdf)

The state of world fisheries and aquaculture (pdf)

NOAA's current and future role in developing sustainable marine aquaculture (pdf)

Previous updates below.

Court Suspends Execution of Tuna Farms in Costa Rica.
(San Jos�, Costa Rica � May 15, 2007)

Last May 9th, the Constitutional Court ordered the suspension of execution of the project to install tuna farms (Granjas Atuneras de Golfito S.A.) in Costa Rica�s South Pacific region, until the Technical Secretariat of the Environment (SETENA, a branch of the Ministry of Environment in charge of approving EIAs) can previously guarantee, and with reasonable certainty, that the metabolic wastes produced by the fattening of tunas will not contaminate the environment, particularly the Golfo Dulce (voto 06315-07). SETENA must perform the technical studies to determine the direction and movement of the currents and the effect of the metabolic wastes on the Golfo Dulce, due to the contradictions in the technical information provided by the company itself. The main doubt is, do the currents have a dispersing effect over the metabolic wastes because they are swift and they move away from the Golfo Dulce, as claimed by officers of the company under oath, or are the currents slow and do they move towards the Golfo Dulce, dragging the metabolic wastes with them, as affirmed by the company�s Environmental Impact Assessment?

�We are satisfied, especially with the application of the precautionary principle�, expressed Peter Aspinal, of the Tiskita Foundation. �Just as we have been warning, the risk posed by the massive generation of metabolic wastes and other contaminants, product of the industrial fattening of tunas, is too high to be taken lightly, and the contradictions show that that is precisely what the authorities did when they approved this project�, explained Aspinal.

The order is the result of the Constitutional Lawsuit (06-008255-0007-CO) filed by PRETOMA and the Association of Neighbors of Punta Banco, against the Director of the Department of Waters of the Ministry of Environment MINAE, the Executive President of INCOPESCA and the SETENA, for approving the project without a previous popular consultation and without considering the precautionary principle. An amalgam of organizations of the civil society joined in opposition to the project, including Foundation Vida Marina, Tiskita Foundation, the Association of Guaymi Indigenous Representatives, the Association of Fishermen of Pavones, the Association of Fishermen of Zancudo, the Municipality of Golfito, and numerous neighbors of Pavones, Puerto Jim�nez and Golfito. The area�s economy is based on low impact ecotourism, and there is a generalized concern that the operation of the tuna farms would not only threaten its scenic beauty, but its ecological integrity as well.

According to Denise Echeverr�a, of the Foundation Vida Marina, the decision of the Court sets an extremely important precedent in light of the accelerated development currently occurring in Costa Rica�s South Pacific region. �There are other coastal development threats that could have equally devastating effects, or worse�, warned Echeverr�a. �Due to the Golfo Dulce�s condition as tropical fjord, its delicate ecosystem and the marine biodiversity it hosts are extremely susceptible to environmental alterations produced by coastal infrastructure, such as tuna farms, piers, wave breakers, marinas, hotels and condominiums, because of which they must be carefully controlled under a precautionary regime�.

Other that the impact on the coastal environment, the sea turtles and the cetaceans, concerns exist stemming from the impact of the tuna farms on wild populations of yellow fin tuna, currently depleted by over fishing. ��How is it that tuna farms are a solution to over fishing, if the proposal is to catch wild individuals to fatten them?�, asked Randall Arauz, President of PRETOMA. �To restore the valuable populations of yellow fin tuna in our Exclusive Economic Zone, the State should promote the reduction of fishing effort by international flag tuna vessels, and promote a national sustainable tuna fishery�, stressed Arauz.

Another Constitutional Lawsuit is still pending, filed by Vida Marina Foundation and the lawyer Alvaro Sagot, against Granjas Atuneras de Golfito S.a. and SETENA, for failure to provide a transparent process during the process of community participatory consultation.

For more information, please download the Spanish and English pdf version for contact info.

Previous Story Below

Granjas Atuneras de Golfito S.A., a corporation of foreign investors, has been given the permits to start a tuna farm just past Punta Banco in the Pavones area. The effect on the marine wildlife, water quality, local fishing industry, and tourism in Pavones as well as the surrounding area of the Golfo Dulce will be devastating. The permits were obtained via questionable methods, violate national law, and are presently under investigation. Lawyers' fees and ads to pressure the government are being paid for by community fundraising and donations. We are asking for any kind of donations or help. For more information on the proposed tuna farm, its effects, and how to help, read below.

Yellowfin Tuna Project Threatens Golfo Dulce, Costa Rica

The project's first stage is to establish no less than 10 cages (interior dimensions of 50m diameter x 20m depth each) enclosed in a structure of 1200m x 500m. Several more such groups would follow down the coast to Punta Burica. Each cage is weighted down by ten anchors weighing 1.3 tons each, for a total of 130 metric tons in reduced area. Granjas Atuneras has proposed to place over 100 cages in the mouth of the Golfo Dulce.

The company would be provided with live tuna (30-80kg) by tuna clippers fishing up to 250nm out to sea. These live tuna would then be slowly towed in a cage for 15-45 days to the project's site.

Tuna, along with certain other marine life, school under dolphins and follow them around in search of food. The tuna clippers use helicopters to spot large pods of dolphins breathing on the surface, knowing tuna will be beneath them. They then us dynamite and speed boats to corral the dolphins into an easily netted mass. They circle the dolphins with a huge net to catch all the tuna beneath. Millions of dolphins are killed world wide by tuna clippers every year using this method. This tuna is traditionally used for canning. There is no such thing as "dolphin safe tuna" from tuna clippers; some fishing practices just kill fewer dolphins than others.

In the waters where these tuna clippers will be operating, there are many different dolphin species among which we find spinner, spotted, bottlenose, common, and Risso's. Slowly towing a mesh cage 15 to 45 days from the open ocean to the coast will cause hundreds of marine fauna to become entangled and die a useless death. Endangered sea turtles, dolphins, whales, fish, and even some of the tuna within the cage will die and rot on their way in. It is an established fact that the main cause of dolphin deaths is entanglement in nets. Both the southern and northern humpback whales use the gulf to feed and give birth to their young during their annual migrations. Placing these cages as a net wall in the entrance to the gulf is a sure death sentence.

Sharks will be attracted to this cage and follow it in to the coastal waters. They will then check out what else is available on the second longest left point break in the world. The organic waste produced by the marine life that entangles in the nets plus the tuna feces will not only attract sharks to the area, it will also cause red tides and pollute the beaches along the coastline. The red tides could destroy all the marine environment of the gulf. The smell from all the organic matter will scare away the tourists and hence the income our communities depend on.

The tuna that manages to survive will then be put into cages and fed frozen imported sardines. Though the sardines are frozen, this does not eliminate the possibility of introducing a virus or other sickness that would cause a disaster on the local fish population. There is a well documented case of exactly this happening in Australia. The amount of sardines to feed all this tuna is astronomical, and even though it will be imported, the impact on the sardine fishery in another country will be high. Tuna is migratory and comes from the south; Costa Rica will be helping to deplete the tuna stocks of the world.

The cages will be lit for navigational safety. Each light will be visible for a radius of five miles. This is in an area where over 200 turtles come to nest every year. It is well documented that turtles use the natural light over the water to orientate themselves. The females, heavy with eggs, will be guided towards these cages and can easily get stuck and die. A few may make it to shore to lay their eggs. Once the babies hatch, the few that survive other obstacles and make it into the water will be attracted by the light and swim straight into the jaws of the hungry tuna. In Costa Rica the Olive Ridley turtle has only been registered nesting in Punta Banco and a beach in Guanacaste; it is very rare. The hawksbill turtle also nests in Punta Banco.

The Golfo Dulce is one of only three tropical fjords in the world. Its marine environment is not only very special, it is very fragile. The mangroves within the gulf are a crucial nursery for sea bass, shrimp and other marine life. The coral reefs are already threatened by sedimentation from logging. The fecal matter and other organic waste would surely destroy what is left. The proposed project represents a threat to the biodiversity of the entire gulf and the livelihood of all who depend on it. The delicate ecology and unique status as a tropical fjord of the Golfo Dulce is the last place on earth where we should be developing an experiment like this (no other yellow fin tuna farm exists in the world).

Please help us fight to keep the Golfo Dulce a clean and beautiful place. Local community organizations are working on this issue, the municipality of Golfito, the municipality of Puerto Jimenez, the Chamber of Tourism of Golfito and many small NGO�s are trying to raise awareness. Unfortunately, many of these places do not even have a phone and our efforts to co-ordinate have been very difficult. We are trying to raise awareness internationally to pressure the government based on their 'green image' for tourism to be true to their word. There are currently no international organizations working to help us with public awareness.

So far a law suit we presented has managed to halt the project for the time being, while the courts review the facts of the proposal. It is during this time that we believe pressure should be applied to the appeals court with a letter writing campaign from the international community expressing concerns over this proposal.

This project has already been approved by the Costa Rican government without any public consultation as is required by law. Despite this deplorable display of corruption and lack of consideration for environmental sustainability, for which Costa Rica prides itself, this tuna project has been temporarily halted as it is being re-evaluated by an appeals court.

Input from the international community will be extremely valuable during this appeals court process. The court is evaluating information it receives, and letters expressing your opinion can influence this process.

As a member of the international community, tourism is the industry that is most affected by your opinion. For this reason, we request that you write a letter to both the President Oscar Arias and the Costa Rican tourism board ICT. The addresses are written below.

Please emphasize your concerns for the environment and the impact this will have on your potential to support Costa Rica by choosing it as a travel destination.

Here you can find helpful pointers on how to write an effective letter:

Please visit PRETOMA ( for updates on this fight.

We sincerely appreciate your help by voicing your opinion.

Addresses for letters:

Instituto Costarricense de Turismo (ICT)
San Jos�
Costa Rica
Fax (506) 220-3555

His Excellency
Oscar Arias Sanchez
The President of Costa Rica
Casa Presidencial
San Jose, Costa Rica