Costa Rica combats illegal fishing with help from OceanMind and the Government of Canada

The Costa Rican Coast Guard is increasing its fisheries enforcement capacity with satellite surveillance and analytic support from Fisheries and Oceans Canada and the not-for-profit organisation, OceanMind.

The world’s open oceans have proven to be some of the most difficult spaces to effectively govern and protect. The consequences are felt particularly in coastal nations for whom fisheries are a vital source of income and food security for millions. In Central America, for example, Illegal, Unregulated and Unreported fishing (IUU) is rife and, in particular, Costa Rica has struggled for decades with identifying and responding to illegal fishing in its sizeable Exclusive Economic Zone.

Fisheries and Oceans Canada and OceanMind are supporting Costa Rica’s efforts to detect and deter IUU fishing with real-time intelligence support during at-sea patrols. Fisheries and Oceans Canada has been providing satellite observations over Costa Rica’s waters, which is being analysed for IUU targets by OceanMind, a not-for-profit organisation that empowers maritime enforcement with expert analysis of the satellite and tracking data. This analysis helps the Costa Rican Coast Guard (CRCG) to identify and target suspicious vessel activities in near real time during patrols. “The support of international partners is key” said Colonel Martín Arias, Director of the National Coast Guard Service of Costa Rica. “We are responsible for a major fishing ground with important shipping lanes. Thanks to this support and cooperation we have been able to patrol more effectively”.

Quantifiable successes have quickly arisen from the collaboration and joint efforts from the CRCG and the Costa Rican Institute for Fisheries and Aquaculture (INCOPESCA), leading to at-sea and in-port inspections of foreign flagged industrial fishing vessels with OceanMind support. Several vessels were investigated earlier this year, aided by advanced tracking analysis technology and remote surveillance. Three of these vessels had requested ‘free’ fishing licenses valued at 180,000USD (priced at circa 60,000USD each) based on agreements to land catch in Costa Rica. These requests were denied for all three due to undeclared activities conducted inside the Costa Rican waters without authorisation. The vessels are in the process of paying the whole cost of the individual license, nevertheless further investigation of the activities inside EEZ is underway. The total benefit for the Costa Rican people is not just about income generated from these licenses, it has also increased their control over Costa Rican waters, resulting in less IUU fishing.

The CRCG, Fisheries and Oceans Canada and OceanMind, are pleased to announce that their international partnership will continue throughout 2020 and that assistance may also be extended to other countries grappling with the problem of IUU. “At the 2018 G7 Summit, the Government of Canada made a commitment to help combat IUU fishing internationally. This is one of many ways that Canada is demonstrating that commitment with practical actions that will yield real-world results,” said Darren Goetze, Director General of Conservation & Protection at Fisheries and Oceans Canada. “We are very pleased to be able to participate in this type of international cooperation and partnership that is vital to combatting illegal fishing.”

OceanMind will be supporting the Costa Rican Government with continued analysis, training to enhance the nation’s capabilities into the future, and advanced technology such as machine learning to support vessel activity. Pablo Trueba, Senior Fisheries Analyst at OceanMind, said “Costa Rica is making great strides in using intelligence to inform their enforcement and we are proud to support them and to grow their own abilities along with other countries in the region.”

In addition to the satellite data support provided by the Government of Canada, Norway’s Kongsberg satellite (K-SAT) also provided satellite imagery that was used to inform patrol focus areas, demonstrating the growing importance of international cooperation for supporting countries like Costa Rica.

For further information, please contact:
Fisheries and Oceans
National Coast Guard Service of Costa