The principles of sustainability and environmental responsibility are matters of supreme importance to us as a company, and extend to all aspects of our mission and operations. For this reason, we want to address a question often raised by our guests: Where does the fish we serve on board come from?
The fishing industry is a highly divisive topic, and one that particularly concerns our clientele of passionate divers. We have to strike a balance between the high standards of fine dining and our dedication to protecting the living seas. This is precisely what led our Purchasing Manager, Jonathan, to Isla de Chira.
In recent years, Jonathan has only purchased farm-raised fish from local distributor, Mario Zamora of Z & M Corporación del Pacífico. Mario is an activist for responsible fishing, and is currently the only buyer purchasing from Palito, a unique fishing village on Isla de Chira. This past Friday, Jonathan, Mario, and members of the group MarViva attended a meeting on Isla de Chira to discuss the future of a sustainable fishing project. Undersea Hunter’s Pier Manager, Nelson, ferried the group in one of our skiffs to Isla de Chira, located in the upper part of the Gulf of Nicoya.
Isla de Chira is the largest island in Costa Rica and is inhabited by approximately 3,000 people. Fishing is the primary source of employment and income at Chira, with sea bass, snook and bagre catfish as the dominant species in the surrounding waters. Although there are other communities at Chira, Palito is home to ASOPECUPACHI which translates to: the Association of Hook and Line Fisherman of Palito Isla de Chira. Members of the group work together to patrol the waters and enforce their responsible fishing methods.
Their responsible fishing initiative has proved so successful that biologists from the National University of Costa Rica (UNA) want to implement an innovative oyster farming project. One of the challenges they want to address is the three-month annual fishing closure period that is required in order to allow the regeneration of fish populations. The biologists' goal is to implement a program to train and equip the fisherman to grow oysters to supplement their income during this time. They brought with them the sample nets that could be made by the fisherman, as well as samples of the oysters they would be growing.
MarViva has been both the catalyst and support system for ASOPECUPACHI's responsible fishing methods. The organization helps train the fishermen in good production practices like responsible fishing, as well as the use of ice in the handling of product. They have sought out and researched market possibilities for ASOPECUPACHI's responsible product, and helped unify the association as a group. The project has many additional supporters, including the Costa Rican Institute for Fisheries and Aquaculture (INCOPESCA), the National Learning Institute (INA), the National University (UNA), the University of Costa Rica (UCR) and the National Conservation Area System (SINAC).
Click to download the PDF and read more about the Project
Q&A with Jonathan, Purchasing Manager
What's your impression of the fisherman from ASOPECUPACHI?
They’re incredible, because they’re humble fishermen with a lot of economic need, but they would rather earn less money than harm the ocean. Many companies just think about having money and in no way try to care for nature; they just want to satisfy their own needs without considering who it might affect. At Undersea Hunter we’re interested in buying seafood that is extracted from the ocean using methods that don’t harm the environment. Although that means an important reduction in menu options, we don’t want to serve seafood that is extracted in such a way that other marine species may be affected or destroyed.
What do you hope to see happen with this project?
Well, for the future, I think putting this information on our website helps because it gives people who care about environmental conservation one more place to direct their donations. For my part, I’m monitoring the progress that [the Palito fishermen] have had so we can advance together and I can motivate them on the operational side with advice they need from me, since I have to satisfy the demands of my clients and make sure the products they consume are of the highest quality.
What are your next steps?
Now that I have placed our first order of responsibly-caught fish from Chira, for the Sea Hunter trip on February 16th, I anticipate the acceptance of our clients, and await the new oyster project to see if I can support them when it goes commercial and add one more item to our menu.