With sport fishing, the Court put the fish first and then conservation

This is the case in several rivers in the south of the country that the communities use exclusively for sport fishing, such as the Manacacías in Meta. They are places inhabited by indigenous communities with little income and where there are not so many options to work.

According to Andrés Reyes, director of the National Association of Fish Farming and Fishing (Pispesca), “the communities of Guainía, Vichada, Nuquí, Bahía Solano and Buenaventura depend 70 percent on sport fishing.”

And that is why the ban hits the economic stability of hundreds of families on the Caribbean and Pacific coasts, who in addition to fishing for consumption, take advantage of environmental tourism. Data from the Aunap say that they are 94 percent of the population of those coasts.

These families will now be forced to carry out this activity illegally or continue with other types of fishing that, in any case, also involve the animal suffering that the Court argued. Paradoxically, the Court’s decision prohibits a practice in which fish are thrown back and protects subsistence fishing, in which they are killed for consumption.

Several environmentalists have questioned the decision because instead of protecting life, the decision has negative effects on conservation. “Conservation is the guarantee of an entire ecosystem, and the ecosystem includes the communities. You can have great environmental wealth, but if people are hungry or have unsatisfied basic needs, there will be no environmental sustainability,” says Luis Felipe Guzmán, Doctor of Law and professor of Rural Studies at the Javeriana University.

The other point they criticize is that the Court neither consulted nor took into account the opinion of experts on the subject or the communities, and opened a legal precedent with which other activities involving animals could be prohibited, without certainty of their suffering.

“Suffering is only of interest in the case of sport fishing, but artisanal fishing is still allowed, regardless of the suffering of the fish,” says Castelblanco.

The fishing boats read it as a death sentence to an activity from which they subsist and which they have done for years. “There are a few projects that end up affecting fishing: like the recent prohibition of bycatch of cartilaginous fish (such as rays and sharks), or the recent Court ruling. This is leading to the disappearance of a key activity for the culture of many areas and that is an ecosystem service”, says fisherman Ángel Villa.

The Court ruled against the communities

Diana Fajardo, the magistrate who wrote the paper studied by the other magistrates of the Plenary Chamber, is known for being a staunch defender of animal rights. She was popular with her position on the “Oso Chucho” ruling, which recognized a habeas corpus to a spectacled bear that was in captivity and that the Supreme Court of Justice asked to be released when it became known that she had an incurable disease. . Fajardo said that this mechanism could be applied to animals, and since then they are recognized as subjects of constitutional protection.

Months later, he clarified his vote in the 2020 ruling that prohibited sport hunting. He said that it was against the Constitution because it implied the suffering of the animal and its death.

These sentences, and the recent decision on sport fishing, are part of a whole legal line that began in 2016 and that has given more and more rights to animals, recognizing that they are sentient beings and that humans have responsibility for their protection. . So much so that Fajardo achieved an eight-to-one majority in this controversial decision on sport fishing.

It is a speech that has permeated more and more in the political scenarios, and that for example this year managed to mount the animal activist Andrea Padilla in the Senate, who defended the prohibition of the Court.

However, the argument of the possible suffering of the fish (of which there is no scientific evidence despite the fact that the Court had already recognized the animals as sentient beings) left out the concept of the communities directly benefiting from that activity and has a a different nuance from practices such as sport hunting or bullfighting, which are central to the discussion of animal suffering.

According to the statement that the Court issued last week, the argument of the Plenary Chamber is almost the same as the one used in the ruling on sport hunting. But for the environmentalist Camilo Prieto, “sport fishing has a focus on entertainment, but it is different from hunting. It is different because captured animals can be released.” Many are even caught more than once.

In this activity, which is regulated, all the fish caught have to return to the water. And there are several rules that must be followed to avoid greater suffering: special fishing rods, ways of pulling the fish and certain times of permanence of the animals out of the water.

For this reason, according to Castelblanco, the prohibition of sport fishing could lead to greater suffering for the animals. “The communities, which have lived their whole lives fishing, are either going to go to illegal sport fishing, or they are going to go to artisanal fishing, or they are going to go to sport fishing that ends up killing the animal to eat it. We are moving from a problem that is from the sentience of the fish to an ecological problem, ”he explained.

In addition, in this particular process, even when the discussions of the Court have room for citizen interventions, it did not have the participation of the Aunap —which is the fishing authority—, nor of fishermen or fishermen’s associations. “Suddenly it was worth analyzing at the time the addressees of the decision, the impacts, and that the decision does not generate a greater evil,” says the expert Guzmán.

And in fact several, like in Buenaventura, have already organized themselves to demonstrate against the Court’s decision through a maritime mobilization. “There are some government decisions that are absurd, from the beginning. It offends me that the government makes decisions above those who know the territory,” says Luis Perea, leader of the Northern Chocó Fishing Group.

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