Costa Rican biologist Randall Arauz forced his government to enforce its laws to protect endangered shark species from slaughter just for their fins.
This made him winners of one of six Goldman Environmental Prize being presented today in San Francisco. The prize, the largest for grass-roots activists in the world, comes with a $150,000 check for each of six recipients, one for each inhabited continent.
Stopping shark cruelty
Arauz began as a sea turtle biologist who helped found the Association for the Restoration of Sea Turtles. But in investigating the fishing practices associated with turtle deaths, he realized a larger problem in his nation was Taiwanese fishing boats coming to Costa Rican waters to fish for sharks. “They hack the fins off, then throw the still-living shark overboard,” Arauz says.
He has been fighting a legal battle for three years to force these foreign fishing fleets to follow Costa Rican law, which requires that sharks caught in the country have their fins attached.
Finning, which feeds a growing Asian appetite for sharks’ fin soup, is unsustainable and cruel but unregulated in many places, Arauz says. “The flesh of the shark is only worth 50 cents a pound, whereas the fins are worth $60 to $70 a pound, so to fishermen, the limiting factor is the space in their hold. If they hack the fins off and only bring the fins, they can capture more.”
He says he’ll use the Goldman prize money to get off-road vehicles so the staff can get down to beaches where sea turtles lay their eggs.
|By Will Parrinello|
|Randall Arauz of Costa Rica fought against fishermen who cut off sharks’ fins and then throw the sharks back.|