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Commons in Action

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A New Governance Model for the Sustainable Use of the Coastal and Marine Environment: lessons learned from the Central Pacific Coast of Costa Rica

Articles and Photographs: Vivienne Solis Rivera, CoopeSoliDar R.L. Associates
Country: Costa Rica
Type of resources involved: Marine and Coastal resources

What change happened to strengthen rights to the commons?

The coastal and marine environments of the Pacific Coast in Central America present a cultural and historical use of their rich natural resources , considering the sea is and always has been a well of common access. The original human populations living in these areas continue being environmentally, socially, culturally and economically vulnerable.
The biological and cultural richness of these areas has deteriorated at a very accelerated rate for many reasons. The causes include irresponsible artisanal and industrial fishing, massive tourism development, the boom in coastal real estate development, etc. These causes have engendered a loss of the cultural identity of the marine and coastal communities and their traditional knowledge associated with using these resources.
With a State Policy and recognition of Marine Responsible Fishing Areas under communitary governance regimes , CoopeTárcoles R.L., with the support of CoopeSoliDar R.L, is the first artisanal fishing community in Costa Rica that has prepared and applied a local Code for Responsible Fishing and a database for their activity. It is currently moving forward for recognition of the first community marine area for responsible fishing in Costa Rica.

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This initiative motivates innovative management and decision making and a form of community governance for the coastal marine resources, for those goods that are held in common, recognizing and maintaining their nature as such.
The resources continue under a common set-up, not establishing exclusive rights, but voluntary norms that allow for the conservation and sustainable use of the coastal and marine resources, with the assistance of a state that recognizes the traditional rights for fishing in these communities.
When did this happen?
This took place during the period from 2000 to 2010.
What were key factors that made this happen?
Key factors have been recognizing new forms of governance where the communities of artisan fishermen and fisherwomen participate in management and decision making for the areas where they have traditionally gone about their business, establishing voluntary norms for their sustainable use and management, resulting in the empowerment of fisherfolks, in the rescue of cuItural identity and in the strengthening of voice and participation.

Who was involved?
Two cooperatives were involved, one of artisanal fishermen and fisherwomen, CoopeTárcoles R.L., and the other of professional fishermen, CoopeSoliDar R.L. CoopeTárcoles R.L. is a cooperative involving small artisanal fishermen and women, founded in 1 985. It has several objectives: direct marketing of the artisanal fishing products, elimination of brokers, attainment of improved prices, encouragement of better labor conditions, creation of sources of employment, sharing knowledge about fishing, and raising stakeholders' organizational Ievel and degree of participation.
Who benefited?
Those who benefited were the artisanal fishermen in the Pacific Coast.
What was the connection with IASC that facilitated this change?
The connection with IASC has been through the information we receive continuously-and we find of great interest- since it is intimately related to the themes we are working. Unfortunately we have never been able to participate in an IASC conference because we haven had enough resources to travel.

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