Gulf Fishermen Live in Poverty During Fishing Prohibition

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“Fishing is very hard… and with the prohibition, we don’t have enough to eat,” commented with sadness Severiano Peralta, a fisherman who lives in Punta del Rio, a coastal town located on the Golf of Nicoya.

At 79 years of age, Severiano has seen many tides come and go. However, he remembers that before the sea was more generous with them, when he says “there was good snapper in the waters.”

Since three years ago, he can no longer get into his boat to go fishing like he was used to since a boat accident left him with a weak waist. Now he lives on a small pension and his sons, Gerardo, Pablo and Roberto, are the ones who bring fish home.

His son Tito is the only one who isn’t dedicated to fishing, as he says, “I don’t have a boat and I can’t even pay my monthly expenses.”

The fishermen of the Gulf of Nicoya feel that it is increasingly more difficult to make a living during the prohibition when fishing season is closed and they consider the aid they receive from the government insufficient.  

The Costa Rican Institute of Fishing and Agriculture (INCOPESCA) emitted a prohibition on fishing in the Gulf of Nicoya during the months of July, August and September so the marine life can reproduce during this period.

The situation of Ejerico Zuñiga, who lives 200 meters from Peralta, is very similar, as he assured that the aid they receive from the Mixed Institute of Social Assistance (IMAS) “isn’t enough.”

The subsidy is 140,000 colones ($280) a month and is granted to fishermen that have a current fishing license emitted by INCOPESCA and fulfill the requirement of 30 hours per month of community work.

Zuñiga agrees with the prohibition against fishing during these months since he believes that it is necessary for the fish to recover; won’t he doesn’t agree with is the amount of money that they receive, as he affirmed that “you can’t live” on this amount, much less support his wife and three sons. That’s why, during the time when fishing is closed he needs to resort to other odd jobs like chopping lots “to more or less cover monthly expenses.”  

Antonio Peña, in charge of the INCOPESCA office in Nicoya, acknowledged that the amount of 140,000 isn’t sufficient to cover the basic needs of a family; however he pointed out that this is a subsidy that is granted to hundreds of fishermen in the gulf and also mentioned that in years past the amount was 100,000 ($200) per month, so it is a little more now, although it’s still sparse.

Peña commented that INCOPESCA has held discussions and trainings in conjunction with the National Learning Institute (INA) to promote the cultivation of oysters and species like tilapia as alternative income sources for the fisherman during the prohibition period.

However, he affirmed that the workshops aren’t very frequent and that very few fishermen take advantage of the trainings.

In addition, he understands why so many fishermen evade the prohibition and go fish during these months. However, this period “is for their own wellbeing since in future months the fishing could be sparse,” he commented.