HELP US SAVE THE GOLFO DULCE
Granjas Atuneras de Golfito S.A., established by foreign interests from Spain, Venezuela and Peru, has been given the necessary permits to start a yellow fin tuna farm project just past Punta Banco, Pavones, at the mouth of the Golfo Dulce which will have a negative impact on all marine life. Not only is this region a very important calving ground for humpback whales from the northern and southern hemisphere, it is also a nestling site of the very endangered marine turtles and the playing ground of various dolphin species.
Tourism and traditional fishing are two of the most important industries in the region, which, according to the well-known National Geographic Magazine, is the most biological intense place in the World.
Local fishermen, tourism groups, conservation organizations, sport fishing operators and local community leaders were all kept uninformed about the project and out of the process. The permits were obtained violating national law, under questionable methods, that are presently under investigation.
The project's first stage is to establish no less than 10 cages (interior dimensions of 50mt diameter x 20 mt. depth each) enclosed in a mesh structure of 1200 mts. x 500 mts. Several more such groups would follow down the coast to Punta Burica. Each cage is weighted down by ten anchors weighing 1.3 tones each, for a total of 130 metric tons in reduced area. The company would be provided with live tuna (30 to 80 kgs.) by tuna clippers fishing up to 250 nm out to sea. These live tuna would then be slowly towed in a cage for 15 to 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 use 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. Slowing towing a mesh cage 15 to 45 days from the open ocean to the coast will cause hundreds of marine life to get entangled and die unnecessarily. Endangered sea turtles, dolphins, whales, fish and even some of the tuna within the cage will die and rot on their way in. 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 tuna that manages to survive will then be put into the cages and fed frozen, imported sardines. Though the sardines are frozen this does not eliminate the possibility of introducing a virus or other sickness which 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 5 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 in to lay their eggs. Once the babies hatch, the few that survive other obstacles and make it to 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 on a beach in Guanacaste, it is very rare. The Hawksbill turtle also nests in Punta Banco. Spotted and bottlenose dolphins live in the pristine Golfo Dulce. It is established 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 of the gulf is a sure sentence. 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 all along the coast line. The red tides could destroy all the marine environment of the gulf. The smell from all this organic matter will scare all the tourists away and the income all the communities depend on. The fish guts, bones, skin, and other wasted (approximately 360 metric tons every harvest) will be frozen and stored on the factory ship for later proper disposal.
The Golfo Dulce is one of only three tropical fjords in the whole world. Its marine environment is not only very special, it is very fragile. The mangroves within the gulf are a crucial nursery for corvina, 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 livelihoods 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).
The communities of the whole area do not want this project to go forward, where it is proposed or anywhere else on Costa Rica's environmentally friendly coastline. We need your help to pay for lawyers and add pressure to the government to stop it. Every penny counts, and if you can't help us economically, please write a letter. We will collect all letters sent and get them to the President of Costa Rica.
For the German version please go to www.aga-international.de; the website of Aktionsgemeinschaft Artenschutz (AGA) e.V., Action Campaign for Endangered Species (ACES)
Thank you for your help.
Golfo Dulce Lodge, Playa San Josecito, Golfito
NO A LAS GRANJAS, SI AL GOLFO DULCE COALITION, OSA COSTA RICA
For more details please contact:
Denise Echeverria, Representative