Tuna Aquaculture Project Threatens Wave at Pavones, Costa Rica

Tuna excrement, red tides, algal blooms, and hydrogen sulfide are not the first things that come to mind when planning a surfing vacation to Costa Rica. But the country's recent approval of a tuna farm project could contaminate coastal waters and dismantle one of the areas best preserved surfing destinations.

A proposed tuna farm project at the mouth of the Golfo Dulce, located along Costa Rica's remote southern Pacific coast, threatens the area's water quality and the overall pristine state of the wave at Pavones – considered to be one of the world's longest lefts.


The company responsible for the tuna farm project, Granjas Atuneras de Golfito S.A. (GAGSA), selected this section of coastline because the area's swift running currents would bring a consistent flow of clean water to the captive tuna. However, these same currents could sweep the massive quantities of fish excrement and food waste produced by the tuna right up to Pavones' doorstep.

Costa Rica's Constitutional Court suspended the project's approval in 2007, sighting inconsistencies in GAGSA's environmental impact study. A part of the suspension, the court ordered a detailed independent investigation be done on the superficial and deepwater currents to better understand where the tuna byproducts would end up. This study was to be undertaken before any future environmental viability approval would be issued by the Costa Rican Environmental Ministry. However, in May 2009 Costa Rica's environmental minister, Jorge Rodríguez, reopened the case and approved the project's environmental viability without performing the court-mandated study.

If the project is allowed to proceed, there is a high probability that the unappetizing mix of ammonia, hydrogen sulfide, and methane – all chemicals found in tuna excrement and leftover decaying food products produced at other tuna farm projects around the world – would reach Pavones. If this were to happen, algal blooms, decreased dissolved oxygen amounts, and wide spread dinoflagellate occurrences resulting in red tides and widespread fish kills could contribute to the dismantling of the area's aesthetic beauty, artisanal fisheries, vibrant ecotourism businesses, and surfing industry.

Local surfers and conservation groups are vociferously campaigning against the tuna farm project (see related articles below). They are urging the international surfing community to write letters to Costa Rica's Tourism Minister's assessor, Marissia Obando, reminding her how important surfing is to the country's economy and how crucial it is to protect coastlines and marine areas for recreational and economic opportunities.


Pavones was recently nominated to Save The Waves' World Surfing Reserves program – an initiative designed to proactively protect the greatest and most threatened surf breaks around the world – because of its world class wave and the local community's dedication to conserving the area's natural surroundings.

To get involved in the campaign and urge the Costa Rican government to protect the wave at Pavones – please send a letter to:

Sra. Marissia Obando

Minister's assessor, Ministry of Tourism San José, Costa Rica,


Copy email:

Sample Letter:

Dear Sra. Marissia Obando,

I am extremely concerned about the fate the wave at Pavones, one of the most pristine surfing destinations in Costa Rica. Please act now and work with the Environmental Ministry to revoke the environmental viability given to the tuna farm project planned for the mouth of the Golfo Dulce and comply with the Constitutional Court's resolution 2007-06315 to perform an extensive study of the areas currents in order to determine the environmental impact of the project.

Thank you.

–For more information please contact Andy Bystrom at or visit the following websites:

Costa Rican Conservation Network: