Surfing, Tuna, and One Town's Quest to Save a Wave
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How a group of surfers and Central American villagers banded together to fight a multinational company and save an environmentally fragile stretch of Costa Rican shoreline.

Pavones was a forgotten Costa Rican backwater located on the Golfo Dulce at the southern end of the country. “[S]ocial castaways” of every stripe found a home there, while surfers could ride waves that were “the stuff of surfing lore.” By the mid-2000s, however, the town became the setting for an epic battle between Granjas Atuneras, a company that sought to establish the world’s first yellow-fin tuna farm at the mouth of the Golfo Dulce, and a motley assortment of poor townspeople, surfers, and ex-felons. Drawn by the classic “David versus Goliath” narrative that pitted haves against have-nots, Evans (English/Lake Tahoe Community Coll.; In Search of Powder: A Story of America’s Disappearing Ski Bum, 2010) began to report on the people and events that made the story so compelling to him. Among the many interesting individuals he met was Danny Fowlie, a former surf enthusiast and convicted drug smuggler who put Pavones on the map by building roads, a hospital, a cantina, and an exclusive ranch. He also interviewed the head of Granjas Atuneras, Eduardo Velarde, a businessman-turned-aquaculturalist who wanted to “follow in the footsteps” of underwater explorer Jacques Cousteau by establishing fish farms to feed the world demand for seafood. As the battle between anti- and pro-fishery proponents unfolded, Evans uncovered fascinating back stories about fishing practices that have led to the serious depopulation of different tuna varieties and bitter quarrels over money and property rights that led to Fowlie’s personal downfall. The author's deep engagement with the narrative more than makes up for his “[in]experience in writing about surfing and aquaculture.” However, the narrowness of the book’s focus will likely limit its overall appeal to readers.

An informative and well-documented story for readers interested in the intersection of business and ecology.

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 2015
ISBN: 978-0-8032-4689-8
Page count: 240pp
Publisher: Univ. of Nebraska
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1st, 2015


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