Great success in the training of the longline fishing sector in Costa Rica and Panama
- The project “Best handling and release techniques of incidentally captured sea turtles” is funded by the National Fish & Wildlife Foundation and the International Seafood Sustainability Foundation (ISSF), and is a close collaboration between SUBMON, EcoPacific+, government authorities and the fishing sectors of Costa Rica and Panama.
Thursday, 13th of April 2023, Costa Rica, midday. I am in the auditorium of the SINAC facility in the town of Golfito, giving a 2-hour talk for 92 fishers. We were expecting about 30 or 40 of them, and there are hardly enough chairs or room for them. Of course, there is no air-conditioning. I am pretty certain I have never sweated as much in my life. It was the same yesterday in Quepos, where we had to organize the talk for 76 attendees in the open-air sports hall, or in Cuajiniquil, where we had to squeeze together (very much) so that 80 attendees could fit in a room for 30 people. At least next week in Puntarenas we would be warned, and we would organize two talks instead of only one in case more than 50 fishers turned up. In the morning 49 fisher arrived, but in the afternoon, assistance shot up to… 123 attendees!
All in all, 475 people have been trained along the Pacific coast of Costa Rica in the best handling and release techniques of incidentally captured sea turtles: 422 of them fishers, being the rest government authorities, tourist guides or researchers in sea turtle nesting beaches.
We would never have imagined that a project with the main objective to create an official and obligatory course for longline fishers of Costa Rica on sea turtle safe handling and release would reach such a success. And, still, the longline fishing sector of Costa Rica has supported the project from the very beginning. In fact, it was them who encouraged us to find the funds to carry it out, and who have worked hand in hand with authorities (Incopesca, INA and Minae) to make it a success.
SUBMON, together with our invaluable collaborator, the consultancy EcoPacific+, has been working for years in the country, getting to know the fishing sector, speaking with authorities and advancing little by little towards this moment, which has only been possible thanks to the mutual trust among all stakeholders during the process. Fishers have even shared videos of their techniques with incidentally captured sea turtles, so that we could better define the most recommended practices according to the specificities of these fisheries. They have opened their vessels (their homes) to us and have explained us how they work every day, so that we could better understand the complexities of their operations.
With all this material and knowledge, we then developed what should hopefully be the contents of the official course, which will be given and certified in the future by INA’s staff. In order to facilitate this task, 8 educative units have been created in the form of auto-guided videos, each one of about 5 minutes and about a specific subject. These videos will be accompanied by a “Catalogue of recommended tools” and a “Teacher’s manual”, where all the matters mentioned in the videos are further explained. Specific tools, which we realized were essential for certain fleets, have also started to be given out, such as line-cutters with a protected blade, or de-hookers for the larger vessels that target tuna, which use larger circle hooks.
But this project has not been limited to Costa Rica; the first capacity building actions have also begun along the Pacific coast of Panama. Here, this line of work has just started, and further conversations with authorities are still needed in order to define the best roadmap, with the final aim to achieve an official and obligatory course in the country, as in Costa Rica. Both MiAmbiente, ARAP and the Cámara Nacional de Pesca y Acuicultura (CNPA) (Fishing Sector of Panama) are strongly involved and have supported the organization of these first trainings, and our intention in the long run is to continue working in the country and to support them in the process. In Panama the attendance of fishers was lower, but still 154 persons were trained: 106 fishers, being the rest authorities. It was in this country that we had the most curious experience: carrying out a training for 38 fishers of the Panamanian international fleet, most of them Indonesian and Filipino, with a few Peruvians and one Spanish captain… But nothing is impossible, so we gave the talk in Spanish and English, with instant translation to Chinese, and from it to Indonesian.
With these training actions, the project comes to an end. This is without doubt the project that I have enjoyed most in the last years, although this last phase has been exhausting. Thank you so very much to EcoPacific+ for a work very well done, to the Costa Rican and Panamanian fishing sectors for making all this possible, and to authorities (Incopesca, MINAE, INA, ARAP and MiAmbiente) for working hard, so that all this work hopefully continues over time. And, of course, thank you to the National Fish & Wildlife Foundation and the International Seafood Sustainability Foundation (ISSF) for trusting us and funding a large part of this initiative. We truly hope this is the beginning of a great friendship, and of many projects to come!
- More information: https://www.submon.org/en/sea-turtle-conservation-with-the-fisheries-sector-in-costa-rica-and-panama/
The project is funded primarily by: