Costa Rica is leading the world in the protection of its oceans and sea life, and increasingly women are becoming involved in sustainably managing its fisheries.
Rosa Martinez lives in San Isidro de Chacarita, in the province of Puntarenas. She entered the world of longline fishing two years ago after a relative suggested she and her husband buy their own boat.
“I was very scared because I had only dedicated myself to housework, I had never managed people. I did not even know how to differentiate fish species,” she says.
The mother of two quickly took to the business world and the crew now calls her ‘la patrona’. While her husband goes to sea, she ensures that the business runs smoothly.
“I deal with the legal procedures for fishing discharges, negotiate with the companies to get the best price, ensure that the boat has everything necessary for safe navigation and if something goes wrong I make sure to send them what they need with another boat. I’m starting and I’m happy,” she says.
Business leader, Jeannette Pérez returned to Costa Rica from the United States with her two sons, following a divorce. To support her family she got a job at a fishing company. When the company closed a few years later, she bought her first tourist fishing boat.
“I fell in love with my work and I realized that I could take care of my family as I was a father and mother,” she says.
For the past year, Jeannette has been participating in the Action Plan of the National Platform of Sustainable Large Pelagic Fisheries facilitated by UNDP through its Green Commodities Programme, in the search for innovative solutions to improve the environmental, economic and social performance of pelagic species such as tuna, mahi-mahi, and swordfish.
She is the first woman to be appointed to the Board of Directors of the Costa Rican Institute of Fisheries and Aquaculture.
In Costa Rica, tourism and sports fishing generates around US$331 million a year and supports more than 60 thousand jobs.
“Fishing and the sea have always been important for Costa Rica, but in recent years the crisis in the sector made me feel the need to get involved in the management of fisheries policy, because many of the decisions that were made did not integrate our vision or contemplate our needs,” Jeannette says.
The Sustainable Pelagic Fisheries Platform of Costa Rica is where the fishing sectors work together and build a plan that will allow the country to overcome the crisis that the industry faces today. “We are stuck, and we need to move forward and this may be the right path. My hope is that we can achieve it,” says Jeanette.
Costa Rica is the first country in the world to establish a National Plan for Sustainable Pelagic Fisheries, it’s led by the Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock (MAG) as the governing body of the fishing sector, the Costa Rican Institute of Fisheries and Aquaculture (INCOPESCA) and the Ministry of Environment and Energy (MINAE), with funding from the Global Environment Facility (GEF).
Only two percent of women in Costa Rica are entrepreneurs, so the road that Rosa and Jeannette have travelled has not been easy. “The empowerment of women is urgent to transform these historical inequalities that significantly hinder their progress, as well as their families, communities, and nations. Rosa and Jeannette are two clear examples of the relationship that women have with sustainable development,” says José Vicente Troya, Resident Representative UNDP Costa Rica.
Although she had her doubts in the beginning, Rosa now wants to encourage others to step out of their comfort zone.
“I would tell women that are thinking as I used to … just jump into the water. I had many fears, but this helped me out of a depression. My mind is busy, I feel more secure and I see that you can live better if you fight, and if you believe in yourself. I would tell all the women to not step back, that the adversities can be overcome,” she says.
Story and photos by UNDP Costa Rica