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Shrimp Fishing and Permethrin?

Jul 05

small-shrimp-fishing-boatWhat does Shrimp fishing and permethrin have to do with surfing? Well, nothing and everything. We surf in the ocean where the shrimp live. Many surfers here in Costa Rica have favorite surf spots that are located at the mouths of the many rivers that feed the Pacific and Atlantic oceans. In nature, Shrimp love the river mouths because they bring food that the shrimp love to eat.

What we just found out today is that the Costa Rican government has taken away the privilege of veterinarians to sell permethrin. “Why would they do this?” we asked.  It appears that shrimp fisherman have been using the insecticide to kill shrimp in the ocean as an easier way to collect the shrimp rather by traditional means. It also appears that the Costa Rican government has been aware of this for quite awhile. Their solution has been to prevent veterinarians from selling this insecticide when used as directed is safe and very effective in the control of fleas and ticks on animals and in locations in and around the areas where animals live, which includes our homes.

Needless to say, shrimp caught by using permethrin cannot be safe to consume. As a personal choice, I have foregone eating shrimp when I arrived here in Costa Rica because I learned about where they are caught. The most prolific populations of shrimp exist outside the river mouths like the Tarcoles which is filled with sewage waste that bottom feeders like shrimp consume. Now with this news about Costa Rican’s lazy fishing techniques, they pose a risk to the people who consume them, in particular young children whose bodies cannot remove toxic chemicals as fast as adults can. We sent an email to a person who would know which ministry would comment on this disturbing story. We will post the information when we get a response from them.

Organizations like exist because of the very reason this story is about. As surfers, we are inherently aware of our medium for our sport, the ocean. Not being able to surf in the ocean because the water is so polluted with high levels of fecal coliforms is intolerable and totally preventable. Purposely adding an insecticide into the ocean is 100% UNACCEPTABLE and CRIMINAL. Putting aside the risk to the human population, the toxic fallout of using the chemical is unknown when adding it to the ocean. Studies have shown that permethrin also kills the shrimp larva so these fisherman not only are destroying the ocean but killing the offspring which would be them more catches. This whole cycle is typical of Costa Rica where the governements inability to control its own citizens and hold them to account for their crimes. Education, enforcement and real punishment for violators is what is needed to keep people who are blatently damaging the planet’s ecosystem for a quick buck.

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11 Responses

  1. 1
    El Maestro 

    Shrimp are often not a “healthy” food to eat here in Costa Rica. You bring up very good points. We’ve heard Costa Rican’s also put Clorox in the rivers to chemically kill shrimp for easy catch, this also kills the shrimp larvae. SHRIMPING — by “hand” with chemicals, or by trawling boats that ruin the sea bottom, is an incredibly destructive activity. There is no way of knowing how the shrimp you or your children are eating are safe for consumption. You can take the chance, I have many times, but now I’m going to say, nuh-uh, no more shrimp ceviche.

  2. 2

    thanks for the info

  3. 3

    How can this happen in a country that is the model for eco-tourism? I find it hard to believe that people would willingly pour insecticide into the open ocean, it just seems so stupid that it is beyond belief.

  4. 4

    Thanks so much for the information. I will never eat shrimp in Costa Rica or buy shrimp imported from Costa Rica. This is sickening, especially because Costa Rica markets itself as an environmentally-friendly and eco-conscious country for tourism purposes.

  5. 5

    Greetings Garret,

    This is really happening despite your disbelief. A healthy level of skepticism is good but I stumbled upon this information in the most innocent way. I was involved with a dog rescue and while we were at the vets, we asked about a flea and tick treatment. The rest I think I told in the original posting. We are trying to get papers showing the suppliers are no longer allowed to sell this to vets. Why the vets? They are the lowest on the totem pole of business interests and the chemical company here that produces the product has its own interests. You can read between the lines.

  6. 6

    Greeting Leslie,

    I would like to point out that this is not a a practice that is taking place with Shrimp trawlers as they have the equipment that is needed to destroy the Gulf of Nicoya without chemicals. We were told that it is the fisherman that have little money to buy the equipment that have been doing this. Many are using it in rivers near the ocean mouth where many shrimp live and breed and without trawlers ripping up everything in its path, typical throw nets will not capture these bottom feeders. What we cannot for sure know is how much of the chemical contamination is affecting the total population. As you know, the smaller the species contaminated the higher the concentration is in the larger species. Hence, high levels of mercury in Swordfish. As a result, close inspection should be made of products that have the origin of being caught in Costa Rica waters.

    The recent post about Costa Rica being the cleanest country was published and they did fail miserably in the marine protection areas. This practice definitely would vote for bottom place of being a clean country. Let’s ask this question, is it possible to be a clean country simply because the studies authors have no way of measuring the catastrophic effects of this type of chemical dumping?

    Regarding your comment about eco-conscious, you are right they market themselves as such but they have a very powerful public relations firm helping them. All you would need to do is actually live here for a few months, so you can begin to venture into non-tourist areas and you will begin to see the problems. While this problem will not go away overnight since part of the problem is the insanely ignorant people in this country. So education will be key to preventing such problems in the future. However, I do think this is a practice that needs to stop immediately even if the government needs to ban the sale and import of the product for a short time until it can educate the public of this health threat and to make examples of people using this product incorrectly.

  7. 7
    Michael Alda 

    I certainly am not glad that this is happening, especially in a country noted for its eco friendly government. But I am delighted that you found out about this practice and reported this. How can we get to the media, no one seems to be reporting this. Do you have an e-mail address to any government officials to protest this practice?

  8. 8

    Greetings Michael,

    I did contact the editor of a local well respected English online news site and his suggestion was to find the paperwork to provide the proof. But I am not as confident as he is in tracking something like that down. Consequently, I was also unprepared for the threatening innuendos made to me in emails. So I prefer that activism on this issue be of grassroots. I cannot nor this site be the focus of this injustice. Meaning it is all too common in Costa Rica to have the messenger proverbially shot.

  9. 9

    Dear Editor,

    You may want to contact the Monterey Bay Aquarium in California, USA. They have a seafood watch program. The seafood originating from Costa Rica needs to be in the “do not eat” list.

  10. Very interesting stuff, something like cyanide fishing in Asia. Most shrimp farms in SE Asia use so many antibiotics that their shrimp are carcinogenic. Shrimp farms also take out mangroves, the nurseries of the sea, so don’t look to farmed shrimp as an alternative.

    On our trips, we are careful to use only shrimp caught by hand nets in the deep sea by longtail boat fishermen. They taste much better than farm or chemical shrimp, and we are supporting local fishermen.

    Humans are remarkable creatures. We have enough intelligence to completely muck up the planet, but lack the intelligence to treat our house with respect.

    John “Caveman” Gray
    Phuket, Thailand

  11. Been to Phuket Town a couple of times now, first time was in April 1999, then back at Songkran 2009. What a phenomenal holiday place! It provides for everyone: if your searching for friendly Thai people there is plenty of them, if your looking for great thai food there is a great deal and nightlife is excellent. If you want a low-cost holiday, you can have it – if you want a costly vacation, you can have it also. My dad is really in love with the place and has just bought into a bar over there. My children love it as well. What a great place to celebrate Christmas!

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