The projects objective is to identify local capabilities, assets, and activities that characterizes the livelihoods of small scale fishers in Costa Rica. A special attention will be given on how different regulations (external and internal) defining who, where, when, what, and how to fish might affect these livelihoods and the natural resource base.
In Costa Rica, nearly 80% of all landings come from the artisanal fleet, and from those, 95% of the fleet operates in the Pacific Ocean (FAO 2011). Small-scale fishing constitutes a central component of local livelihoods (most small scale fishers live under line of poverty) and it is also the main source of marine products for Costa Rica (FAO 2011). However, overexploitation is increasingly evident and INCOPESCA (the government branch that regulates fisheries in Costa Rica) has been implementing seasonal fishing bans, primarily in the Gulf of Nicoya (OIRSA 2007). In other parts, fishermen exert pressure on the government through local organizations to increase their participation in decision making and the definition rights to decide who, where, when, what and how to fish (López 2011). Further, the government has short term plans to include coastal marine ecosystems under its National Protected Areas system. This plan includes the declaration of absolute protection in some areas and in others to allow management practices including small-scale fishing (SINAC 2008). However, governmental experience in designing and implementing marine protected areas is quite limited.
The project is envisioned in two stages:
The first stage will be implemented in 2012. A baseline study will focus on understanding the livelihoods of small scale fishermen and their compliance with actual governmental regulations (mostly fishing bans). In addition, the preferences of fishers for different attributes of future regulation will be taken into account to delineate a hypothetical regulation scheme. A sample of different communities from the Gulf of Nicoya will be used for this analysis. This Gulf is located in the northern pacific coast, concentrates the larger fleet of small-scale fishers and it is also the largest and most exploited estuaries in Central America (FAO 2001).
The second stage will start in 2013 (additional funding will be required for this). The idea is to conduct a longitudinal analysis to track the changes in livelihoods and indicators on the condition of the marine resource given the implementation of new governmental regulations, such as marine protected areas (based on strong regulation or co-management).