Social development initiatives for small-scale artisanal fisheries, from public institutions and Non-governmental organizations, is not homogeneous. One aspect focusses heavily on productive development, linked to the generating employment opportunities (often unrelated to fishing knowledge and culture). Another is closer to a social development vision implemented with a human rights approach, for the dignified development of this sector, involving educational, health, decent work and cultural value. There have been some tentative advances in innovative rights-based approaches in public policy, but there is still a tendency for them to remain on paper. Putting them into practice is a major challenge.
Rural development efforts are often directed at the agricultural sector, rendering small-scale artisanal fishers invisible, and women fishers even more so. Research reveals that due to the institutional rectorship of the women INAMU, concrete efforts have been made to recognize the work of women linked to small-scale artisanal fishing across different value chains. The National Women’s Institute has coordinated with the agricultural sector to ensure that public policy instruments recognize women in this sector and provide them with opportunities. This process is relatively recent.
A vast majority of women fishers say that they do not have the support of public institutions for their work. Projects offered to them are generally unrelated to their knowledge and fishing tradition. Interviewees identify the importance of their own actions in changing living conditions, and therefore they consider fisher organizations a fundamental means of influencing public policies linked to small-scale artisanal fishing.
Despite an interest from the youth, more needs to be done to enhance their capacities and create greater involvement in the sector. Weak policy inhibits growth. More attention needs to be paid to technological development and education. There is a need for greater inter-institutional co-ordination to ensure implementation of policies and schemes for social in coastal marine areas. Despite the country’s commitment to providing for and protecting all communities and protecting diversity, policies enacted have so far failed to make much headway.
The issue of land tenure continues to be an unresolved problem in the country. This has a direct impact on the social development of coastal towns, and an institutional framework that has tried to generate jobs and enterprises that does not consider the needs of women, youth, and fishers in fishing communities. The sector continues to be very vulnerable to the effects of climate change, and there are no measures to help mitigate and adapt to that. More needs to be done to protect them from the impact of climate change.
Despite Costa Rica’s Indigenous Law, there are no regulations that encourage indigenous populations to recover their connections with the seas and rivers, in ways that knowledge and resources linked to terrestrial and marine biodiversity can be enhanced, protected, and used sustainably. The different sectors interviewed are aware of the Guidelines as international policy, but recognize that implementation is slow. For the country, it continues to be an instrument that still lacks positioning and political will to put proposals into practice.