Costa Rica News – If you did not see through the smoke and mirrors that Laura Chinchilla threw up in Manuel Antonio when she signed the “shark finning ban”, your IQ level is not very high. Funny that they signed this agreement in Manuel Antonio and not where this shark finning is largely based in Puntarenas. Below is the press release from Sea Shepherd in regards to this farce.
Sea Shepherd Press Release – A victory for sharks. Or is it? News of Costa Rica’s ban on the practice of shark-finning was heralded around the world a few days ago and was, seemingly, a victory for sharks. However, upon closer look at the declaration, it’s clear the shark ban is “toothless” — a largely symbolic gesture rather than a true commitment to sharks and their environment, contends the global nonprofit marine conservation organization Sea Shepherd Conservation Society.
Ironically, Costa Rica has been recognized as a global leader in environmental protection. The New Economics Foundation has identified the nation as the ‘greenest’ country in the world. The Future Policy Award 2010 was given to Costa Rica at the recent Nagoya Biodiversity Summit for its successful implementation of the forward-thinking Costa Rican Biodiversity Law. This dedication to protecting its environment has certainly benefited Costa Rica. Tourism has increased six-fold since 1998, now representing 22.7% of foreign exchange generated by all exports. Further, Costa Rica also received nearly $56m in donation and debt write-off to expand forest and marine conservation programs. Still, is the commitment genuine?
“Sea Shepherd is not buying it,” says Julie Andersen, Sea Shepherd’s Director of Shark Campaigns. “The supposed ban is smoke and mirrors by President Laura Chinchilla. Costa Rica is simply trying to do damage control for all the attention focused on shark-finning since it issued a warrant for the arrest of our founder Captain Paul Watson in May of this year,”
The organization argues if President Chinchilla were genuine in her desire to ban sharkfinning, she would also ban the trade, possession and sale of shark fin as has been done in a handful of other forward-thinking nations. If President Chinchilla were genuine, she would ban shark fishing in its entirety — a demand for shark meat has been created that provides a very real loophole for shark fishermen to exploit. If President Chinchilla were genuine, she’d ensure that Cocos Island was adequately protected and those protections enforced, to prevent illegal shark fishing. If President Chinchilla were genuine, she’d drop the bogus charges against marine conservationist and Sea Shepherd president and founder Captain Paul Watson and stop siding with the shark fin mafia. If President Chinchilla were genuine, she wouldhave enacted legislation and enforcement to protect sharks before their numbers were down by up to 90%. Instead, in 2011, she allowed 400,000 sharks to be slaughtered and permitted the export of some 30 tons of shark fins — permitting private docks belonging to foreign interests to operate in violation of the country’s policies.
Undoubtedly, regardless of the attention given to Chinchilla’s symbolic gesture, sharks continue to be depleted throughout Costa Rican waters by local and international fishermen alike. Cocos Island National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the most important shark aggregation centers in the world, is filled with dozens of fishing boats
illegally laying longlines, and Captain Paul Watson continues to be persecuted.
By enacting this toothless ban, President Chinchilla is simply trying to appease the tourist industry by creating the illusion she is getting tough on the shark fin industry. Shark fins are big business in Costa Rica. Indeed, one of the reasons there has been very little outcry from the shark fishing industry over this “ban” is because they know it will continue to be business as usual. Legislation and marine protected areas are only as good as the political will and available funds required to enforce them. Sadly, history proves the protection of Costa Rican waters is under-funded and/or managed by corrupt officials who are quick to turn a blind eye to what is really going on in their waters and have no intention of enforcing local laws.
If Costa Rica is really serious about saving sharks, the government should ban the trade, possession and sale of all shark fin; institute an immediate ban on shark fishing, as was done in nearby Honduras; step up enforcement; demonstrate some real conservation efforts at Cocos Island; tally up some actual arrests and seizures; and drop the outlandish charges against Captain Paul Watson.
Just as Sea Shepherd has done recently in the South Pacific on its campaign, Operation Requiem, and just as it works every day in the Galapagos alongside law enforcement to protect that sacred ecosystem, Sea Shepherd stands ready to assist Costa Rica with all of these challenges, effectively protecting the last remaining shark populations in some of the most important shark waters in the world.
The people of Costa Rica want shark finning to stop. Pressure is being applied worldwide as well. Now, President Chinchilla must understand that she is not fooling anyone with this announcement. Conservationists, park rangers, members of the Coast Guard, politicians, and members of the public in Costa Rica will continue to report the truth.
And the truth is that Costa Rica remains one of the most environmentally destructive and shark-destroying countries in the world.
(Added by the Costa Rican Times) Let’s see how many Chinese boats are taken down in the next few months. Signing a law is nothing if it is not enforced, and this will not be enforced.