Costa Rica and Global Fishing Watch Sign Agreement to Give Greater Transparency to Fishing Activity

Global Fishing Watch, PACÍFICO and the Forever Costa Rica Association applaud Costa Rica’s decision to share vessel tracking data and its commitment to enhancing monitoring and control of its waters

San José, Costa Rica – The Costa Rican government today announced an agreement to make its vessel tracking data available through Global Fishing Watch (GFW), demonstrating its commitment to greater transparency in fishing activity.

The agreement was signed today between the Costa Rican Institute for Fisheries and Aquaculture (INCOPESCA) and GFW, with the support of PACÍFICO and its member, Forever Costa Rica Association. INCOPESCA and GFW will work together to bring tracking data of Costa Rica’s commercial fishing vessels into GFW’s platform, enhancing monitoring and market opportunities for local fishers by raising their international profile. 

The adoption of this agreement demonstrates Costa Rica’s leadership in fisheries transparency by sharing the vessel monitoring system data of our fishing fleet. Working together with Global Fishing Watch will allow us to promote the sustainable use of our marine resources by strengthening control and surveillance measures in our jurisdictional waters — aspects that the fishing sector considers necessary to guarantee that the fish being sent to international markets comes from sustainable sources,” said Daniel Carrasco Sánchez, Executive President of INCOPESCA.

As a country, we are convinced of the importance of joining efforts against illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing in our maritime territories, both the Pacific and the Caribbean. Efforts taken by the State to manage fisheries, use marine resources, or protect its biodiversity will not be successful without a collective effort to prevent, deter, and eliminate this threat, which also risks exacerbating poverty and declines in seafood catch,” added Carrasco.

Analyses of Costa Rica’s fishing activity will be used to enhance authorities’ understanding of a given vessel’s behavior, which enables compliant fishers to be easily identified and noncompliant vessels more readily recognized. GFW will not publish sensitive information on Costa Rican fishing vessels. Available information will only include vessels’ flags and activity tracks, with a 72-hour delay before data is published to the map.

The GFW public map tracks the movements of commercial fishing vessels from around the world in near-real time. GFW uses publicly broadcast automatic identification system (AIS) data to track vessel movements,  without exposing high-value fishing sites or revealing catch information. Adding vessel monitoring system (VMS) data, which is required by many governments, provides an even clearer view of global fishing activity. 

Costa Rica’s progressive decision to adopt fisheries transparency will support a sustainable future, serving to strengthen governance of the country’s rich marine resources for the well-being of people and nature,” said Tony Long, CEO at Global Fishing Watch. “As more countries embrace transparency in fishing operations, illegal fishers will have fewer places to plunder.” 

Costa Rica’s national waters cover close to 600,000 km2 — 10 times larger than its land area — and it is widely recognized for its global environmental leadership. Fisheries are a vital source of jobs for many coastal communities in Costa Rica, while its pelagic fisheries generate the majority of catches and are mainly fished by foreign vessels licensed to operate in Costa Rican waters.

The Forever Costa Rica Association is proud of the agreement between GFW and INCOPESCA which showcases Costa Rica’s commitment to transparency. It follows the Letter of Intent signed by the Ministries of Environment and of Public Security of Costa Rica with GFW in 2018, and the Memorandum of Understanding recently signed with INCOPESCA. This agreement will deliver a wide range of positive outcomes for fisheries, the conservation of our marine resources and the livelihoods of local communities,” said Zdenka Piskulich, Executive Director of the Forever Costa Rica Association and PACÍFICO board member.

INCOPESCA is working to promote sustainable fisheries and harness the country’s blue natural capital for long-term gains and inclusive economic growth. In May, Costa Rica was invited to join the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) — an important milestone for the Central American nation. Costa Rica has implemented various OECD recommendations, including restructuring INCOPESCA’s board of directors to include representatives from both the environment and foreign trade ministries. The partnership with GFW aims to support Costa Rica’s commitment to strengthening the governance of fisheries resources and promoting equity in the fishing sector by tackling illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing.

The agreement by INCOPESCA highlights the success of the partnership between GFW and PACÍFICO to work with governments to promote transparency at the regional level, in the central Eastern Tropical Pacific, as it was demonstrated last year with a similar agreement between GFW and Panama. PACÍFICO is committed to continuing support to Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador and Panama to contribute to the economic, environmental and social well-being of communities from the region,” said Carlos Chacón, Coordinator of PACÍFICO, a sustainable finance foundation comprising four environmental funds in Central and South America.

Public sharing of VMS data helps improve surveillance and encourages vessels to comply with regulations. Unauthorized vessels, and those with a history of noncompliance, can be identified more easily and prioritized for inspections, while vessels that turn off tracking devices can be held accountable when they come into port. Public sharing of VMS data can assist compliant fishers through faster, more efficient port entry and landings, and provide opportunities to implement regulatory and market incentives to reward them.  

“Transparency is crucial for responsible stewardship of our global ocean — to fight illegal fishing, to protect fish stocks and livelihoods, and to increase the safety and welfare of fishers,” added Tony Long. “Costa Rica’s decision to publish its vessel data via our map adds real momentum to the drive for more public information on fishing activity.”

In 2017, Indonesia became the first nation to make its proprietary VMS data available via GFW’s platform — instantly putting 5,000 smaller commercial fishing vessels that do not use AIS on the map. Peru shared its VMS data via GFW in 2018, followed by Chile and Panama in 2019.

For further information:
Kimberly Vosburgh, Communications and Outreach, Global Fishing Watch
[email protected]
+1 518-590-2979

Carlos Chacón, Coordinator of PACÍFICO
[email protected]

Global Fishing Watch (GFW) is an international non-profit organization committed to advancing the sustainability of our ocean through increased transparency. By harnessing cutting edge technology, our map platform allows anyone to view or download data and investigate global fishing activity in near real-time, for free. GFW was founded in 2015 through a collaboration between Oceana, SkyTruth and Google. Our work is made possible thanks to the support of our funding partners, and technology and data providers.

PACÍFICO is a foundation made up of four environmental funds: Patrimonio Natural [Natural Heritage] (Colombia), Fondo Acción [Action Fund] (Colombia), Fundación Natura [Nature Foundation] (Panama) and Asociación Costa Rica por Siempre [Forever Costa Rica Association] (Costa Rica). Its mission is to serve as an innovative regional funding platform to ensure the sustainable management of the Eastern Tropical Pacific (ETP). 

*Any and all references to “fishing” should be understood in the context of Global Fishing Watch’s fishing detection algorithm, which is a best effort to determine “apparent fishing effort” based on vessel speed and direction data from the Automatic Identification System (AIS) collected via satellites and terrestrial receivers. As AIS data varies in completeness, accuracy and quality, it is possible that some fishing effort is not identified and conversely, that some fishing effort identified is not fishing. For these reasons, Global Fishing Watch qualifies all designations of vessel fishing effort, including synonyms of the term “fishing effort,” such as “fishing” or “fishing activity,” as “apparent,” rather than certain. Any/all Global Fishing Watch information about “apparent fishing effort” should be considered an estimate and must be relied upon solely at your own risk. Global Fishing Watch is taking steps to make sure fishing effort designations are as accurate as possible.

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