Wednesday, 5 January 2011

Shark Attack

NOAA agent counting confiscated shark fins.Image via Wikipedia
Costa Rica sells itself as a tourist destination on its respect for is one the top ten destinations listed by the Ethical Traveller organsation for 2011(here) , after all.

Well, the Ethical Traveller organisation had better revise its opinions sharpish and revise its methods while it is about it.

No country that turns a blind eye to the practice of cutting the fins from live sharks and throwing them back in the sea to die in agony, unable to swim, can claim any ethical status....and this is what is happening in Costa Rican waters.

It is not a new has been documented by Rob Stewart, filming illegal shark finning off Coco Island in 2002...and it centres on the Pacific coast port of Puntarenas whence the fins are exported.
I had always thought of shark fin soup as something rare and expensive, but with these new methods of obtaining fins it has become something cheap and widely available in Asia....thus the importance of the market.

The Costa Rican government responded to internal and external pressure to ban the finning by passing a law in 2008 which permitted the fins to be detached only if the shark were killed...and to decree that any fins landed must be attached to a shark and the boat concerned must tie up to a public dock.

End of problem?

Not at all.

Passing a law is one thing...enforcing it another.

Costa Rica has no a Central American version of the Cod Wars with Iceland is out of the question...

Costa Rica has a coastguard...but it is not well funded and can't be everywhere....its main priority seems to be tracking drugs being carried in its territorial waters.

Costa Rica has police forces....many and various police forces all with differing functions....but the government can hardly issue them with water wings and get them to swim out to suspected vessels.

Costa Rica turns a blind eye to this appalling practice for two reasons......

The first - the government has limited funds at its disposal and all too many responsibilities. The responsibilities which affect people who can affect the government get first priority.

The second - the government seems at a loss to know how to deal with any law breaking which involves anything more complicated than simple theft conducted in front of witnesses.

Is there a solution?

Nothing direct, I think, but there are things which could be done.

Tourism is very important to the Costa Rican economy and certain sectors of it...the luxury resorts....can certainly affect the government.
What a gesture it would be if they were to offer to help fund the coastguard to preserve the image of Costa Rica which they sell to their clients!

The virtuous circle in action.

But, as they are very unlikely to do anything of the sort, being dedicated to screwing the last penny out of their environment and giving nothing back, what about a ring fenced tax on their activities to provide funding?

Not very likely.....the government would not like to affect the revenues of those who have polluted the waters, ruined the mangrove swamps and excluded Costa Ricans from the beaches of their own country while the tourists live in the never never land behind the guarded walls.

So it's down to the tourists themselves.....

Costa Rica is a lovely country.....but until it gets its act together...

Take your holiday somewhere else.

And tell the Costa Rica Tourist Board why.

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  1. I have never had shark fin soup. I thought, wrongly, that it was made from the left over parts of the shark. I had never considered that this could happen, it is so sad and so very wrong.

  2. That is disgusting! And it's not only happening in Costa Rica. The movie The Cove deals with a similar industry in Japan where dolphines are killed under the same kind of conditions. I hope that somebody makes a movie about the sharks in C.R. too and that it raises awaremess and the ire of would be travellers.
    Thanks for letting us know.

  3. Ben_The_Dog, it is a disgrace...and it's not something that gives me any pleasure to blog about....but it has to be said.

  4. There was an article in the paper the other day featuring Gordon Ramsey (who I really dislike) saying that he had been filming in Costa Rica and the crew had discovered thousands of shark fins drying on roofs of houses - as he was probably f'ing and blinding about it they were spotted and he had petrol poured on him and was told to get out of the country otherwise he would be torched. As the article was so badly written and pretty incoherent I thought that it was just another Ramsey stunt, but obviously not ...

  5. That is such a revolting and barbaric practise - totally unjustifable. I'm amazed it doesn't receive a bigger profile in the media but to be honest, I think much of the world, sees Costa Rica as an inconsequential backwater in global terms - and that's part of the problem. But this practise that they are undertaking affects everybody.

  6. Wow, what a barbaric practice. Another one. Shame Gordon is such a prat as a high profile bloke like him could make an impact.

  7. Unfortunately, it's more than lack of funds. Costa Rican government uses their funds to support "other interest activities". That's why the police (or the three police forces :S) get little support but have to deal with everything and anything. As we say here "they have gotta work with their nails" if there's nothing else.
    Free shark fishing was the price CR government paid some Asian countries for infrastructure works such as bridges and stadiums our country can perfectly build with our own professionals and industry. But that means, how am I to pay my friends in foreing governments who supported my campaing?
    What's more painful? To see my fellow country people believing in politicians and voting them.

  8. Sarah, it needs publicity...but I don't think one TV programme..which will probably concentrate on him swimming with sharks...will be enough.

    Mark you, i must say his recipes work...

    Ana, I did have suspicions that kind...were involved.
    After all Taiwan used to 'buy' the Costa Rican recognition until Arias switched horses so suddenly to China...and guess which country's nationals now own all the cement works in Costa Rica....

    Really sickening.

  9. Oh this is just appalling. You're right it does need publicity. Can you link me to any decent articles on this barbaric practise so I can post up on Facebook? Would you mind me linking your blog post on Facebook?

  10. I had NO idea that this happened. I'm no fan of sharks but even less a fan of needless barbarity. I echo Sarah's comments about Gordon Ramsey.

  11. Horrible. And I guess much the same problem as poaching in Africa and Asia. It will continue until demand stops

  12. Ayak, I'll send some links over. Thank you.

    Wylie Girl, was he the no show celebrity at the village fete last year?
    No, I can't say I'm a fan of sharks, but their human equivalent is a damn sight worse.

    Mark, and for all the so called controls and laws there is still 'wild meat' getting through Heathrow without any problems...

  13. good god, that's barbaric. And I've heard Costa Rica is supposed to be such the eco-destination! Unfortunately, until you ban the demand, the supply will always be found. And governments are usually the last ones to step in.

  14. Heartbreaking and vile. There's such a frightful hullabaloo when a shark kills a human being, but in future I'm cheering the shark.

  15. Another Day of Crazy, Costa Rica is not all it is a great label, but the claims are difficult to substantiate.

    nodamnblog, vile is it. I'd like to take the hands and feet off those responsible and let the sharks have a go...
    I don't think I like the human race, some days.

  16. What an abominable practice. It is sickening. Barbaric.
    I came here through Ayak. You are right to bring it to the open.
    Maggie X

    Nuts in May

  17. Maggie May, I am really grateful to Ayak for linking to the post...the more it is publicised the better.
    It is wicked thing to be doing.

  18. terrible practice! I have never heard of it

  19. Up to 73 million sharks are finned every year, their fins & tail sliced off with a knife and the still alive shark dumped like rubbish back inot the ocean to die a slow & painful death. All for a bowl of soup.

    Rob Stewart of Sharkwater fame estimates shark populations globally have dropped a staggering 90% in the last 30 years. Scalloped Hammerheads & Silvertip Whalers have been virtually eliminated from Australia's northern reefs because of shark finning.

    The flow on effects of removing the ocean's apex predators is having disastrous results for our marine ecosystems. In the North Atlantic the populations of Cow Nose Rays has exploded due to the massive reduction in the numbers of sharks who prey on them. As a result the prey of the Rays, clams, scallops & oysters have been obliterated, so much so that the famous American dish, Clam Chowder, has been removed from many restaurant menu due to over predation of the dish's main ingredient, the Quahog Clam by the rays.

    The Australian Anti Shark Finning Alliance is part of an international network of shark conservation organisations fighting to end the shark fin industry.