End shark finning in Costa Rica
- By Richard Branson -
- Sep 13, 2012
Although shark finning has been banned in Costa Rica since 2001, a loop-hole has meant this legislation is proving impossible to enforce. As a global leader of environmental protection, we look to Costa Rica to provide an example to the world in stopping the cruel practice of shark finning.
Shark numbers are dwindling and these beautiful creatures are dying pointless deaths. They are pulled along fishing boats, their fins cut off, and left to die a slow death. Together with former Costa Rica President and current Carbon War Room President Jose Maria Figueres Olsen, we are calling on President Chinchilla to issue a Presidential Decree prohibiting the importation of all shark fins.
Here is the letter we have delivered to President Chinchilla:
Your Excellency, esteemed President Chinchilla,
Your country is renowned for its leadership in environmental policies. Since 2001, shark finning in Costa Rica is prohibited. Yet finning persists in your country’s waters and that of your neighbors, with unloading of fins taking place in adjacent countries. From there they are imported to Costa Rica for further export to international markets. This ‘loop-hole’ makes enforcement of your legislation very difficult, as fins found in your country are allegedly all imported. We therefore respectfully ask you to issue a Presidential Decree banning all importing of shark fins.
Costa Rica has been recognized as a global leader of environmental protection. The New Economics Foundation has identified this nation as the ‘greenest’ country in the world. The Future Policy Award 2010 was given to Costa Rica at the Nagoya Biodiversity Summit for its successful implementation of the forward-thinking Costa Rican Biodiversity Law, enacted in 1996.
This dedication to the protection of the environment has always benefited Costa Rica. Tourism has increased six-fold since 2000, now representing near 25% of foreign exchange earnings. In the past Costa Rica also received $56m in donations and debt swaps to expand forest and marine conservation programs. This beautiful country and its commitment to protecting the environment is the beacon that attracts visitors and much international support.
Given Costa Rica’s leadership role in protecting the environment, it is especially disturbing to witness the destruction of its shark populations. Sharks are critically important to the health and ecosystems of these oceans. Costa Rica is blessed with valuable shark populations. These sharks are as important to the future of Costa Rica as any other focus on conservation - perhaps more so given their valued role in maintaining the balance of marine life.
Yet sharks are being depleted throughout Costa Rican and neighboring country’s waters by both national and international fishing fleets. Coco Island National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the most important shark aggregation centers of the world, is under extreme pressure from fishing boats illegally laying long-lines that are depleting the Park’s shark treasure. More often than not sharks are pulled along fishing boats, their fins cut off, and left to die a slow death.
In 2002, Director Rob Stewart documented the illegal fishing of sharks in Coco Island, as well as the shark finning and processing docks at Puntarenas. These images were viewed in his internationally acclaimed and award winning film, “Sharkwater”. More recently last year, the docks at Puntarenas and their illegal shark fins were again in the news worldwide in a televised report by celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay. Enforcement of the law prohibiting shark finning is challenging, as it is always argued that fins found or being processed in Costa Rica have been imported from neighboring countries. This could be immediately remedied by your signing a Presidential Decree prohibiting the importation of all shark fins.
We recognize your strong environmental credentials. In your presidential campaign you pledged “Aumentaremos el área marina bajo protección garantizando su uso sostenible y conservación”. We trust you will undertake all possible actions to stop the slaughter of sharks in Costa Rica.
Jose Maria Figueres Olsen & Richard Branson
By Richard Branson. Founder of Virgin Group