Illegal shrimp trawler caught red-handed in Cabo Blanco Marine Managed Area

by | Aug 17, 2017

Illegal fishing occurred 2 months after protected area was created

(August 16, 2017 – San José, Costa Rica)

The shrimp trawler María Aurelia was arrested by the Costa Rican Coast Guard and Tempisque Conservation Area (ACT) officials on August 13th after being caught red-handed trawling in the Cabo Blanco Marine Managed Area, where trawl activities are banned. The illegal fishing activity comes two months after the protected area was created last June 8th (40442-MINAE) to coincide with World Oceans Day.

Shrimp trawler María Aurelia caught illegally fishing in the Cabo Blanco Marine Managed Area

At the time of arrest, the María Aurelia’s 267 kg catch consisted of 18% shrimp and 82% bycatch species. Among the bycatch were various kinds of snapper which are important to local artisanal fisheries whose catch supports the economic viability of the area’s coastal communities. Many of these small-scale fisheries also participate in sustainable fishing projects, the success of which is put at risk by unselective fishing techniques such as shrimp trawling.

“Costa Rica’s artisanal fisheries support thousands of fishermen, women and families all along the country’s coasts”, said Andy Bystrom, fisheries consultant from the Costa Rican organization Asociación CREMA. “But the operation of unselective and destructive fisheries, like shrimp trawling, not only negatively impact the socio-economic situations in these communities, but Costa Rica’s general economic development and international sustainability image”, continued Bystrom.

Because of the environmental and economic complications that result from Costa Rica’s trawl fishery, the Constitutional Court ruled in August 2013 that its operation was contrary to democratic sustainable developmente (2013-010540) and ordered it to be phased out by 2019 if it could not be made sustainable. In response, the trawl industry and the Costa Rican Fisheries and Aquaculture Institute (INCOPESCA) have presented a bill (N° 19.838) called the Law for Sustainable Development and Use of Shrimp in Costa Rica that, according the INCOPESCA, would allow the sustainable management of the industry. However, instances of recurrent illegal shrimp trawling in the country’s coastal marine protected areas highlight the industry’s reluctance to abide by existent regulations. “The bill in question will require more zoning restrictions and technological regulations,” pointed out Bystrom. “If the trawl fleet cannot abide by existing regulations, how will it abide by even more of these in the future?” he asked.

“The incapacity of local authorities to duly sanction illegal fishing operations encourages fishers to ignore regulations,” explained Randall Arauz, of the Colorado based marine conservation organization Fins Attached. “Suit was filed over 8 years ago against shrimp trawler Sonia J for operating illegally in the marine protected area of the Caletas-Arío National Wildlife Refuge, but the Administrative Environmental Tribune of the Ministry of Environment has been incapable as of yet to issue a final resolution”, lamented Arauz.

For more information:

Isabel Naranjo
Centro Rescate Especies Marinas Amenazadas (CREMA)
+506 8305 0507

Andy Bystrom
Fisheries Consultant, CREMA
+506 8764 4839

Randall Arauz
Fins Attached Marine Research and Conservation – Costa Rica
+506 8708 8253

CREMA ( is a Costa Rican NGO that works to conserve, manage and restore, populations of endangered marine wildlife, and is an elected member of the official Cocos Island Conservation Area Regional Council.

Fins Attached Marine Research and Conservation ( believes in the preservation of our world’s precious resources and that through the protection of the ocean’s apex predators marine ecosystem balance can be maintained for the benefit of all living things on earth.