The Costa Rican Shark Finning Crisis
Shark populations worldwide have plummeted an estimated 90%, and the iconic hammerhead’s numbers have touched rock bottom with population loss estimated at over 95% in some regions. Unable to uphold its own laws, Costa Rica faces the distinct possibility of completely destroying its shark populations because of unregulated fishing practices. Because of this, a major portion of our shark conservation efforts lie in the political lobby arena.
Shark finning happens when fishermen catch sharks and brutally severe their fins to fuel the insatiable, billion dollar a year Asian shark fin soup market. Because shark meat is for the most part inedible, finned sharks are thrown back into the ocean and left to die.
Shark fishing isn’t illegal in Costa Rica; however, returning to port with a boat load of fins is. Costa Rican fishing law states that these fins must be naturally attached to the shark when landed at a public dock, thus avoiding shark finning. Costa Rican customs law mandates the use of public docks to land sharks, thus protecting the public interest.
At least 10 private docks operate in Puntarenas where massive quantities of shark fins are landed monthly by foreign flagged vessels. These private docks make inspecting a boat’s cargo impossible.
Costa Rica’s Constitutional Court, the State Attorney, and the Comptrollership Court have all mandated the closure of the private docks. A recent report (August, 2008) issued by the Congressional Environment Commission called for the immediate closure of the private docks. However, at the present time there is no political will to close the private docks and curb shark finning in Costa Rica, and I have a theory why:
Costa Rica has been “given” a new national soccer stadium by the Peoples Republic of China. Look around San Jose and you will see that a whole new fleet of police cars have Chinese flags on the side of them and not-so-fine print reading “This patrol car was donated by the Chinese Republic”. Excuse me, but how is it possible for a country with no standing army (no exorbitant military budget) to need to rely on China to provide cop cars? Where the hell is all the tax $$ going?
Now, do you really think that Costa Rica has been given patrol cars and soccer stadiums free of charge, or do you think China wants something in return? Now, I have no proof, but my experience tells me that somewhere, someone is whispering in the ears of Costa Rican government officials, “As long as you keep supplying shark fins for our shark fin soup market, we’ll give you a shiny new stadium where you can loose your next world cup qualifying match in!!”
And that ladies and gentleman is why shark conservation in Costa Rica is damn hard work.
Here’s Pretoma’s video that alerted the world to shark finning (god it’s gruesome)
Say, my friend Grorge Rix is up to real good fighting this shark finning battle. Check out his Shark Fin Soup the Yelow Peril blog