Sharks are quickly disappearing from the Costa Rican Pacific waters because of their unfortunate demand for their fins which sell for $200 per pound to make shark fin soup, which can fetch up to $300 per bowl. So what to do? Well, one idea may be to complement the spirit of the International Game Fish Association’s (IGFA’s) marlin off the menu campaign to prevent eating marlin so future generations can enjoy the sport of catching and releasing them, so too, sharks have to be protected – shark fin soup off the menu. Sharks are caught by long liners and even occasionally get hooked on sport fishing lines to the captain’s dismay. In 2004, Costa Rica supplied 8,000 tons of shark fins to Asia making it the world’s 3rd largest supplier!
Because Costa Rica has new tougher laws, some fleets are moving northward to Nicaragua where enforcement and laws are not so strict to land the shark fins.
Belize flagged Hung Chi Fu 68, docked in “Terminal Pesquera”, San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua. April 30, 2011.
Many restaurants in Costa Rica have shark fin soup on the menu. One easy step is to boycott this practice, but the demand is so strong and with few Coast Guard boats on the Pacific, it is an impossible battle to win.
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.