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Costa Rica: Tuna Farm Aquaculture Project Near Turtle Beaches Stopped

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SAN JOSE, Costa Rica -- On Monday November 7, 2011 Costa Rica's Environmental Secretariat (SETENA), via official document 2723-2011, stated it would no longer consider Granjas Atuneras de Golfito SA's petition to construct a yellow fin tuna aquaculture project, or tuna farm, at the mouth of the Golfo Dulce. SETENA's decision permanently closes the case on Granjas Atuneras' (the company responsible for the project) 7 year campaign to bring industrial aquaculture to Costa Rica's Southern Pacific coast.

SETENA's decision to stop the tuna farms was based on an existing Supreme Court order against the project, the company's apparent falsification of information in its environmental impact assessment, and the expiration of project permission granted by SETENA in 2004 and in 2008, among other factors.

"So many people worked to stop the tuna farms: Golfo Dulce residents, the Pavones No Tuna Farms Association (ANAGA), the international surfing community, national and international NGOs, attorneys, and many more," said Andy Bystom, a Pretoma consultant. "On behalf of everyone involved, we'd like to applaud SETENA's decision to stop this project."

Approval of the project would have meant the installment of up to 80 circular tuna cages located 1 km off the coast of some of Costa Rica's most important sea turtle nesting beaches. Tuna aquaculture would have also been a major contributor to biological waste that could have potentially degraded water quality along economically important surfing and ecotourism areas, as well as negatively impacted local fish stocks.

One caveat in the tuna farms episode relates to recent free trade agreements between Costa Rica and China that allow for the commercialization of farm raised tuna. Because of these new economic relationships, more industrial aquaculture projects could be proposed in the near future. "For this reason, it's imperative we continue to gather information on the importance of maintaining the environmental integrity of our coasts both for the economic development of local communities and for the protection of endangered species," said Bystrom.

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