Costa Rica

International Treaties

Sustainable Development

Environmental Law

Case Studies


Environmental Crime Legal Framework in Costa Rica

    Article 46 of Costa Rica’s Constitution states consumers and users have the right to:

  • The protection of their health, environment, security and economical interests
  • Receive adequate and true information
  • Freedom of election, and equitable treatment

  • The State will support the organs constituted by them for the defense of their rights. The law will regulate these matters

    Article 50 of the Constitution reads: “All persons have the right to a healthy and ecologically balanced environment. For that, they are legitimated to denounce the acts that infringe this right and to claim reparation for the damage caused”.

Featured Legislation

1942: Law No. 276 (Water Law) was passed, regulating the quality of water on both public and private domains.

1961: Law No. 2790 (Wildlife Conservation Law) was enacted to preserve, protect and control the wildlife of Costa Rica. The legislation would be amended by Law No. 7317 in 1998 to include the continental and insular fauna that lives in natural temporary or permanent conditions in the country and flora living in natural conditions in the country.

1982: Law No. 6812 (Law Creating the Ministry of Industry, Energy and Mines) was formulated, governing the whole energy industry, including fossil fuels and renewable energy projects.

1985: Law No. 7017 was instituted, regulating the importation and control of agro chemicals.

1990: Law 7152 was approved to convert the Ministry of Industry, Energy and Mines into the Ministry of National Resources, Energy and Mines.

1994: Law No. 7381 was created, providing Guidance on Improving the Environment.

1996: Law No. 7575 (Forest Law) was introduced to protect, conserve and manage forest areas as a priority and central responsibility of the State. The law also mandates the government to improve the living conditions for rural communities.

1998: Law No. 7788 (The Biodiversity Law) was passed, embracing the three objectives of the Convention on Biological Diversity:

  • Conservation of biodiversity
  • Sustainable use of resources
  • And the fair and equitable sharing of the benefits arising from the utilization of genetic resources

1998: Law No. 7779 was approved, regulating the management and conservation of soils.

2002: Law No. 8325 was created to protect, Conserve and propose recovery efforts for the marine turtle population.

2017: The National Seed Policy of Costa Rica (2017-2030) was unveiled. The objective of the Costa Rican National Seed Policy 2017-2030 is to promote the development of the Costa Rican seed sector with an articulating approach to the interests and resources of its members, to improve the productive efficiency of the agricultural sector, based on the challenges that they raise food and nutritional security, the preservation of biodiversity, climate change, the globalization of markets and the guarantee of seed quality. For this, it is proposed to maintain a system that regulates and promotes the production and trade of high-quality seeds, with international standards and plant varieties that contribute to increasing productivity and agricultural competitiveness, through the articulation of a regulatory, technical and operational framework. effective, that sustainably strengthens the capacities of the Costa Rican seed sector.

2017: The National Drinking Water Policy of Costa Rica (2017-2030) was presented. The National Drinking Water Policy of Costa Rica is the document of national scope, related to the period 2017-2030, which defines the axes, objectives, scope and guidelines that correspond to the State in the provision of the drinking water supply service for the population of the country, considering that it is a duty of the State to protect the health and seek the greatest well-being of citizens. The policy, in turn, constitutes the basic instrument for the elaboration and evaluation of the Action Plans, which will be executed during the periods: 2017-2020, 2021-2025 and 2026-2030, to ensure the control of the actions and the measurement of the results. The policy is structured from four dimensions: environmental, social, political and economic; They are linked to national commitments and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) that guide and articulate the five approaches of the same Policy, which are the following: 1) Human Right to Drinking Water; 2) Sustainable and Sustainable Development of the Environment; 3) Equality and Gender Equity; 4) Economic and Financial Sustainability; and 5) Citizen Participation. On the other hand, four strategic axes are defined for the implementation of the PNAP, which will improve the conditions of access and continuity of drinking water. These axes are: 1) Culture of water; 2) Investment in infrastructure and service; 3) Governance of drinking water; 4) Environmental management of drinking water.

Featured Case Studies: Transnational Environmental Crime, Human Security, and Biosecurity

  • In an unprecedented move to curb environmental crime, the Costa Rican government has created a registry inviting anyone to report knowledge of a criminal action regarding wildlife or the environment. The Ministry of Environment, Energy and Telecommunications (MINAE) is responsible for protecting the environment and this new registry is a response to illegal tree cutting, illegal dumping, animal cruelty, etc. MINAE states that 5,722 environmental crimes were recorded in 2020: this figure represents a 9.3% increase over 2019. Approximately 85% of the complaints were attended to and 67% were resolved. Most of the reported crimes were related to forestry such as logging violations. When a complaint is reported, a number is assigned to track the status of the complaint. The department handling the complaint will determine the facts of the case under the guidelines of the state and decide if the complaint could be further investigated or transferred to an internal unit within the government. Once the case is closed, the person who filed the complaint will be informed. This effort aligns with Costa Rica’s commitment to environmental justice and the inclusion of community members in decision-making processes. MINAE has recorded higher levels of engagement with local and rural communities since the registry was established.
  • The Osa Peninsula is located in southwestern Costa Rica; boasting resplendent biodiversity and intricate ecosystems, the area is threatened by criminal groups who exploit its natural resources for profit. Local police and environmental authorities of Osa have decided to take action by forming a united front. The Costa Rica National Area Conservation System is comprised of different units – one of which is the Osa Conservation Area. Law enforcement officials have organized special operations with the Ministry of Public Security, the Program of Control and Protection and the Frontier Police to refine methods of protecting and controlling the environment in a more effective and efficient manner. The special operations will tackle activities like illegal logging, the extraction of gold, destruction of wetlands, and even the smuggling of the country’s flora and fauna. Costa Rica is hopeful that 36 operations will be conducted in the following year, involving more than 100 officials from the Police Force and 50 officials associated with the Osa Conservation Area.

References and Further Reading


Ministry of Environment, Energy and Telecommunications: