Bräutigam, A. and K. L. Eckert. 2006. Turning the Tide: Exploitation, Trade and Management of Marine Turtles in the Lesser Antilles, Central America, Colombia and Venezuela. TRAFFIC International, Cambridge, UK.
1. Wildlife Law N° 7317.
2. Law for Sea Turtle Protection N° 8325.
3. Nacional Parks Law N° 6084.
4. Environment Law N° 7554.
5. Biodiversity Law N° 7788.
6. Fishing and Aquaculture Law N° 8436.
7. Interamerican Sea Turtle Protection & Conservation Convention Law N° 7906
8. CITES Law N° 5605.
There is a long history and substantial body of legislation governing the exploitation and conservation of marine turtles in Costa Rica and, it would seem, a similarly sizeable body of analyses of that legislative history. This culminated, in 2002, with the passage by the national legislative assembly of a specific marine turtle law, Decreto Nº 8325 Ley de Protección, Conservación y Recuperación de las Poblaciones de Tortugas Marinas (Law for the Protection, Conservation and Recovery of Marine Turtle Populations), which was gazetted on 28 November 2002. In addition to providing the basis for the adoption of the necessary measures to guarantee the country’s international commitments, most recently with respect to IAC, the law reiterates the obligation for national and foreign shrimp trawls operating within the territorial seas (12-mile limit) or Exclusive Economic Zone (200-mile limit) to deploy turtle excluder devices (TEDs). In addition, it requires that any project that promotes tourism activities in relation to nesting turtles must be authorized by the Ministerio del Ambiente y Energía (MINAE – the Ministry for the Environment and Energy) on the basis of technical criteria that ensure that the activities do not compromise marine turtle protection. Finally, the law incorporates articles setting forth the penalties for those who kill, hunt, capture, transport or trade in marine turtles as a prison term of one to three years, and for commercial possession and trade in marine turtle products or “sub-products” as a prison term of three to 24 months, in both instances with forfeiture of all equipment used in committing the infraction. The law nevertheless provides for a specific exemption to this prohibition for collection and marketing of eggs of Olive Ridleys in the Ostional National Wildlife Refuge on the Pacific coast, as regulated by MINAE.
From 1999 until enactment of the marine turtle law in 2002, the capture, possession or killing of marine turtles intentionally, as well as trade in marine turtle eggs, parts or products, in the Costa Rican Caribbean, was prohibited (MINAE, 2001). The body of marine turtle law on which the new law rests includes the following legislation:
• Decreto Ley Nº 190 Ley de Pesca y Caza Maritimas (law on marine fishing and hunting) of 28 September 1948 (revised through Decreto Ley Nº 426 of 8 March 1949, Decreto Ley Nº 741 of 4 October 1949, and Ley Nº 2304 of 1 December 1958) prohibited the commercialization of marine turtle eggs and the destruction of marine turtle nests (DGRPA, 1987). According to Groombridge and Luxmoore (1989), this law allowed limited trade in the meat of Green Turtles and prohibited hunting and trade of all other marine turtle species.
An amendment to this law in 1987 permitted the commercial use of Olive Ridley eggs (at Ostional on the Pacific coast), in accordance with a management plan with a scientific justification (Chacón and Valerín, 2001). This law has been superseded by a new national fisheries law, the Ley de Pesca y Acuicultura Nº 8436, which was unanimously approved by the Costa Rican Senate on 10 February 2005 after 10 years of discussion and debate, and entered into effect on 25 April 2005. Article 30 prohibits any exploitation of marine turtles and establishes heavy penalties for violations of the prohibition; it also reiterates the requirement that shrimp fishers use TEDs. The law makes numerous other progressive provisions, including for time and area fishing closures. It also prohibits shark-finning and sets forth fines and gaol terms for those involved in landing shark fins at Costa Rican ports (PRETOMA, 2005).)
• Decreto Ejecutivo Nº 14524-A of 4 May 1983, of the Ministerio de Agricultura y Ganadería (Ministry of Agriculture and Ranching), gazetted on 26 May 1983, established a number of regulations for the exploitation of marine turtles, including those requiring:
• that commercial permits for the capture of marine turtles in the Caribbean would be issued only for waters under Costa Rican jurisdiction;
• that commercial permits would only be issued for the capture of Green Turtles;
• that the capture of Green Turtles would only be authorized under the following conditions:
• by individuals duly authorized by the Ministerio de Agricultura y Ganadería
• during an open season extending from 1 June to 31 August
• outside Tortuguero and Cahuita National Parks
• the Minister to issue a maximum of 30 permits per year, each permitting the capture of a maximum of 20 turtles per month, for a total of 1800 per year;
• that all captured turtles be killed within 12 hours of being landed, in an abattoir duly registered by the Ministerio de Salud (Ministry of Health);
• that each permittee report monthly to the Oficina de Pesca in Limón regarding: the zone of capture, number of turtles captured per trip, sex of the animals, date of landing, and the abattoir where the animals were sold; and
• that the abattoirs authorized for turtles provide weekly government fishing inspectors with the following information: the names and numbers of the identity documents of the persons bringing the turtles in and the number of turtles killed per person.
• Ley de Consevación de Vida Silvestre Nº 7317 of 21 October 1992 and its revisions (Leyes Nº 7495 of 3 May 1995, Nº 7497 of 2 May 1995, and Nº 7788 of 30 April 1998) and implementing regulations, including the Ley de Biodiversidad Nº 7788 of 30 April 1998, listed all species of marine turtle occurring in Costa Rica as threatened with extinction.
• Ley de Creación del Instituto Costarricense de Pesca y Acuacultura Nº 7384 of 29 March 1994 established the Instituto Costarricense de Pesca y Acuacultura (INCOPESCA).
• MINAE Decreto Ejecutivo Nº 26435, gazetted in December 1997, lists all six marine turtle species occurring in Costa Rica as threatened with extinction.
• MINAE Decreto Ejecutivo Nº 30364, gazetted on 15 May 2002, revised the penalties for wildlife violations provided by the wildlife law Nº 7317. The apparent conflict between the wildlife and fisheries legislation and the problems that it gave rise to, prompted, in the late 1990s, a coalition of NGOs to file a formal complaint before the Supreme Court (Sala Cuarta) of Costa Rica against INCOPESCA, questioning the legal justification for INCOPESCA’s issuing of permits for the capture of Green Turtles in the Caribbean region of the country. Through Resolución Nº 001250-99 of 19 February 1999, document Nº 98-003689-007-CO-C, the Supreme Court declared INCOPESCA’s issue of permits authorizing the exploitation of Green Turtles unconstitutional, on the basis that insufficient technical and scientific analysis had been undertaken to demonstrate that the level of exploitation would not deplete or significantly impact the species (MINAE, 2001). With this decision, legal exploitation of marine turtles in the Caribbean sector of Costa Rica effectively ceased.
Chacón, D., Eckert, K., (2007). Leatherback Sea Turtle Nesting at Gandoca Beach in Caribbean Costa Rica: Management Recommendations from Fifteen Years of Conservation, Chelonian Conservation and Biology, 2007, 6(1): 101–110
de Haro, A. and S. Troeng. 2006. Report on the 2005 Leatherback Program at Tortuguero, Costa Rica. Caribbean Conservation Corporation.
Reports for Gandoca, Cahuita and Playa Negra can be found at the ANAI website.
Troëng, S., D. Chacón and B. Dick. 2004. Possible decline in leatherback turtle Dermochelys coriacea nesting along the coast of Caribbean Central America. Oryx 38(4):395-403.
Troëng, S. and E. Rankin. Long-term conservation efforts contribute to positive green turtle Chelonia mydas nesting trend at Tortuguero, Costa Rica. Biological Conservation 121(2005): 111–116.
Troëng et al. (2005). Migration of hawksbill turtles Eretmochelys imbricata from Tortuguero, Costa Rica. Ecography 28: 394/402, 2005
Troëng, S., and Chaloupka, M., (2007). Variation in adult annual survival probability and remigration intervals of sea turtles, Mar Biol (2007) 151:1721–1730.
Troëng et al., (2005). Migration of green turtles Chelonia mydas from Tortuguero, Marine Biology (2005)