Update on the “No Tuna Farms” Campaign

Map: Google Earth

A grass roots effort to overturn the environmental viability granted to a massive tuna aquaculture project by the Costa Rican National Environmental Secretariat (Setena) has resulted in foreign NGOs, local communities, businesses, and foreign governments all rallying together to stop the initiative from damaging one of the most unique marine environments on the planet.

Unfortunately, overwhelming repugnance towards Setena’s decision to approve the project has not caused the secretariat to re-evaluate the case.

Because people have screamed for years at Setena to no avail about the possible environmental impacts of a tuna farm (local fish deaths, red tides, obstruction to sea turtles, etc.), “No Tuna Farm” campaign members decided to switch gears and evaluate the project’s social components.  A careful revision of the environmental impact assessment study found that the company responsible for the would be tuna aquaculture initiative, Granjas Atuneras de Golfito S.A., actually drafted fake letters of support for its project and forged  local resident’s signatures.

Campaigners obtained these letters and were horrified at how men and women who are adamant about the protection of the area’s marine resources had their names attached to letters stating how they were in favor of the tuna farms.  The case was presented to the Ombudsman’s Office and resulted in Setena officials making the trip down to the area and interviewing the individuals whose statements and signatures had been falsified.  With this social element complimenting the environmental component to the campaign, “No Tuna Farms” members are hopeful that Setena will revoke the environmental viability it irresponsibly granted the project.
What is Setena?
Setena’s job is to assess the possible environmental impacts of new development projects.  If the project passes the scrupulous investigation, it is given environmental viability and allowed to continue with the Costa Rican approval process.  In short, Setena acts like a filter, kicking out all the dirty, unsustainable, development plans, and letting in the ecologically friendly ones.

Supposedly, all efforts are taken to maintain Setena’s independence and distance the organization from political influence.  But in reality Setena is nestled under the watchful gaze of a menagerie of private interests, each one pulling the organization this way and that way at their choosing.

Not surprisingly, Setena awarded environmental viability to Granjas Atuneras’ aquaculture project and its plan to construct 80 tuna cages outside the mouth of the Golfo Dulce along Costa Rica’s southern Pacific Coast.

Sensing that the fox had been left to watch the hen house, Costa Rica’s Supreme Court (Sala IV) stepped in in May, 2007 and suspended the project’s implementation until it’s shareholders could prove that the would be massive amounts of tuna waste produced by so many fish in captivity wouldn’t be swept into the Golfo Dulce by local marine currents.  As of this date no such study has been done.

In October, 2008 the “autonomous” secretariat, defied the court’s ruling, and again granted the project the environmental green light.  The campaign continues its fight to overturn this decision.

Take a ride to the “Tuna Farms” proposed site and see how the project would harm the local economy/ecology


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