Costa Rica opts for trade-led sustainable fisheries strategy

16 November 2018

Costa Rica - literally "Rich Coast" - looks to grow its fish trade responsibly and sustainably by adopting a new national strategy, aided by UNCTAD, DOALOS and national partners.

Costa Rica’s vital fishing sector got a boost when stakeholders selected priority areas for the development of a National Oceans Economy and Trade Strategy in line with Sustainable Development Goal 14 on protecting marine ecosystems at a workshop held in the country’s capital San José on 6–7 November.

Government ministers, industry representatives and fishers’ associations, with the technical support of UNCTAD and the United Nations Division on Oceans Affairs and the Law of the Sea (DOALOS), decided to target:

  • Tuna, dolphinfish, and swordfish fisheries

  • Coastal fish (fresh or frozen products)

These sectors are worth about $52 million in exports to Costa Rica each year, while global demand for these fish is growing at an annual 3%. This represents significant prospects for medium and small-scale fishers involved in harvesting these target species.

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“The strategy will have a significant social and economic impact on this population, and will focus on the sustainability of the resource and improving the overall competitiveness of those involved in this task,” Costa Rica’s deputy agriculture and livestock minister, Bernardo Jaén Hernández, said.

The Oceans Economy and Trade Strategy Project, led jointly by UNCTAD and DOALOS, will focus on the two fishery sectors to develop a comprehensive strategy that engages participants in the fish value chain and provides trade and legal technical assistance to Costa Rica during the next three years.

Foam to fork

UNCTAD, with the technical support of the Ministry of Foreign Trade (COMEX), the Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock, the Costa Rican Institute of Fisheries and Aquaculture (INCOPESCA) and other entities, will help strengthen the entrepreneurial skills of fishery workers and build productivity in the sector.

Importantly, the work will also focus on upgrading methods that will ensure the traceability and sustainability of the catch.

The goal of the strategy is to help selected Costa Rican fisheries to achieve international standards and equip them to position themselves more competitively in markets worldwide, as well as in domestic ones.

For Deputy Minister Jaén Hernández, the importance of this strategy lies in the fact that, for the first time, coherence is achieved between sustainable processes aimed at target species of the small and medium-sized fleet of the country and the appropriate post-capture management of coastal fishery products, which are extracted by the small-scale longliner fleet and by artisanal fishermen.

Costa Rica’s deputy minister for foreign trade, Duayner Salas, said that adopting the strategy was necessary for his country’s future.

“When deciding on which sectors to focus, we need to look at: How can we make these sectors more competitive? How can we develop local capacities? What are the best ways to add value and promote social equity?” Mr. Salas said.

“The answer to these questions allows us to make more accurate decisions, based on data, with consistency and greater sustainability over time,” he said.

“We appreciate the technical support of UNCTAD in this new vision, and we thank all the participants for their contribution, for being part of the new economy, the blue economy, which will allow us to use all our marine wealth, in a sustainable way, in the future and allow economic growth, social development and the coherent protection of our resources to coexist,” Mr. Salas added.

INCOPESCA executive president Moises Mug said: “This is an initiative that allows us to articulate the work of improving fisheries management in the country with the positive incentives that can be generated in the markets and thereby boost sustainability in the use of the fishing resources in the ocean and near our coasts.”

“It is a big challenge, but also a necessity in the country since we must help create conditions to generate more employment and improve coastal livelihoods.”

Broad participation

The workshop enjoyed the broad participation of regional fisheries organizations such as the Central America Fisheries and Aquaculture Organization, the United Nations Development Programme, the National Institute of Learning, PROCOMER, and the Coastguard Police.

National businesses and civil society organizations involved in fisheries likewise took part, including the Chamber of Fishery Products Exporters and producer organizations such as the Chamber of Longliner Boats, which are known in Spanish as palangreros, cooperatives of producers such as COOPETARCOLES and individual fishery producers.