Costa Rica News – Costa Rica’s President Luis Guillermo Solís was awarded the ‘Shark Enemy’ award by the conservation organization Sharkproject International. President Solís was nominated by the Sharkproject team and picked by a team of international jurors for this dishonor based on his anti-conservation policy record that seeks to roll back marine conservation efforts, most notably protection for endangered and threatened shark species. Earlier this year his administration stated it’s intent to ramp up efforts to export shark fins, even with the recent news that demand for fins abroad was plummeting.
The “Shark Enemy” award, a rusted shark fin, was officially announced at the International Boat Show in Düsseldorf, Germany, an event that draws upwards of 300,000 visitors from around the world each year.
“Solís as President, should recognize that the tide has turned and now is the time to protect sharks in Costa Rica,” said Randall Arauz, Central American director of Turtle Island Restoration Network. “As a country dependent on tourism we can not afford to be known as a place that is environmentally irresponsible,” he added.
Costa Rica’s anti-shark stance represents a roll back in previous administrations policies. Under former President Laura Chinchilla Costa Rica pioneered domestic anti-shark finning legislation that later served as a global model, and played a key role in securing an Appendix II listing for endangered hammerhead sharks under the Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). Former President Chinchilla was awarded the Shark Guardian award by Sharkproject in 2013 for these pioneering efforts.
But now, the new administration has made clear that it intends to chart a different course. Costa Rica announced this fall that it will:
- No longer promote the conservation of sharks at international conventions;
- Make a further commitment to modify the Decree that regulates the operation and integration of the CITES Council of Scientific Authority Representatives, for the interested fishery sector to politically influence its technical decisions;
- Review mandatory minimum catch size limits, and adjust them accordingly to favor shark fishers over conservation;
- Intervene to convince former shark fin transporting companies including American Airlines (AA), and United Parcel Service (UPS), both of which halted this activity in response to their corporate responsibility policy, to resume transport of shark fins.
This anti-shark policy shift comes after major corporations (like American Airlines and UPS) announced that they will no longer ship shark fins or support the shark fin trade, and after a report showed demand for shark fins plummeting by 50-70 percent in China.
“This award shows just how far Costa Rica has fallen. Under Chinchilla the country was moving in the right direction and working to save shark species,” said Todd Steiner, biologist and director of Turtle Island Restoration Network. “I hope President Solís will use this as an opportunity to revise his administrations policies to safeguard endangered and threatened sharks.”
Background of Sharkproject Award:
The idea of a “Positive Award” and a “Negative Award” was born in the spring of 2003 during a meeting of the Sharkproject’s executive committee. The names of the awards were selected by competition. Now, the Shark Guardian and the Shark Enemy award is given out each year to honor excellence in shark conservation and call out leaders who fail to protect shark species. Learn more about the awards and past winners online here.
Turtle Island Restoration Network is an international marine conservation organization headquartered in California whose 200,000+ members and online activists work to protect sea turtles and marine biodiversity in the United States and around the world. For 25 years, Turtle Island Restoration Network has mobilized people to preserve oceans, restore rivers and streams, and protect the marine wildlife – from sea turtles to sharks – that call these blue-green waters home. SeaTurtles.org