The stage at BOOT in Dusseldorf was the venue for the presentation of this year’s SHARK ENEMY and SHARK GUARDIAN Awards bestowed by SHARKPROJECT, the international shark protection organisation. These are the only shark protection awards worldwide.
SHARKPROJECT has in 2016 yet again awarded its positive and negative Shark-Protection prize to those people who have either been conspicuous for their especially commendable or outrageous policies.
As usual, the winners of this year’s SHARK ENEMY- and SHARK GUARDIAN- Awards were announced live on the Dive-Tower-Show-Stage in Hall 3 at the world’s biggest watersport trade-fair “boot” in Düsseldorf. These awards are the only shark-preservation awards worldwide.
The German watchmaker Chris Benz is doing his bit for shark protection: an exclusive SHARKPROJECT watch is in production and will be available for purchase in a bundle with “Blind Dates”.
SHARKWATER is a Canadian documentary created and produced by Rob Stewart in 2006. Originally, the diver, underwater photographer and biologist simply wanted to release a beautiful underwater movie about sharks to refute prejudices, then however prodded at illegal business and criminal organizations engaged in the so called shark finning. Stewart then mainly focused on the illegal shark-hunting industry.
For years we especially focus on informing children and adolescents. They grow up in a world in which there are less and less sharks – unless changes are yet to come. And our longtime experience show: children can effectuate a lot.
Michel, the little white shark of our children’s book series, is the hero – and now he goes to school. Our school program for 3rd / 4th School classes (age about 8 to 10 years) is available for download.
The 40-year-old American is currently one of the most popular and famous persons in Hollywood and has been nominated for the Oscar Award several times, as actor as well as executive producer. Over the past few years, DiCaprio repeatedly ranked in the top ten of the best-paid actors worldwide, earning significantly more than 100 million US dollars while yielding considerably more than one billion US dollars with his movies and productions. The popular British magazine “The Guardian” placed him among the 3 of the most influential people in Hollywood.
For more than 400 million years by now, sharks have been swimming through the oceans- long before dinosaurs were hatching out of their eggs. 530 different species of sharks still exist today, yet most are endangered. Among others, the Great White Shark is, as well as all kinds of hammerhead sharks, listed on the IUCN’s red list of endangered species. Bringing more shark species on the top spots of this list is obviously the desire of the company PROPEGAL SL, located in the Galician Vigo.
The company celebrates itself as “one of the leaders of global shark fin trade“, strictly according to law: for the EU prohibited landing shark fins without the rest of the fishes’ body in July 2013. As a result, the fins get cropped (on an industrial scale) ashore in the halls of PROPEGAL and are afterwards offered for sale on the company’s website, where you can even find a self-promotion video on the act of finning, accompanied with motivating music. That’s enough for SHARKPROJECT to name them the SHARK ENEMY of the YEAR.
Extinction is forever – we are fighting for the animal shark next to a precise reproduction of a Megalodon’s impressive dentition.
The ancient shark has died out only a few million years ago. Nowadays, humans still continue trying everything possible to also have descendant species extinct soon. And after that we will be the next species going extinct. Unless we rapidly rethink.
For 2015, we have dedicated our organization in particular to the fight against the popular technique of the fishing industry, which is the so-called “long lining”: More than 20.000 baiting hooks, distributed over more than a 100 km long line, are towed behind a ship and indiscriminately impale anything in the circumference; fishes, sea mammals, turtles, waterfowls, sharks.
We are very pleased and looking forward to present this and other topics at the world’s largest watersports trade fair “boot” in Düsseldorf, Germany, in January (17.-25.). SHARKPROJECT is located in the Diving Hall (Hall 3) at the center of aisle A, stand 37, and of course on the show stage as well. Again, there will also be a contest as well as opportunities to participate and to discuss with our officers, management, campaigners and experts.
Obviously they think on the Azores that SHARKPROJECT comes by once in a while, shouts around, and disappears again.
No, we’re on the scene:
And again the Spanish unload at the harbour of Horta.
This time documented by our loyal supporters Anja and Michael Weberberger. They had taken pictures of unloading processes for us in summer 2013. The Siempre Juan Luis with origin harbour Vigo/Spain unloaded again, mostly blue sharks and some mako sharks at September 19th 2014. This vessel is an often “guest” at Horta, like the Amel La Guardia (as documented by Gerald Nowak on June 26th), and the Manuel Alba as documented by our campaigners Friederike and Meik Obrock on July 27th.
From far away (but still visible) Anja and Michael confirm that the sharks are much smaller as in the years before. Their photos speak for them selves as well as the pocture from the dives at Condor Banks (the protected nature Reserve): The outcome of long lining is visible in the nature reserves. Some of the victims escape from their human hunters!
When does this madness stop! We keep in touch.
(Pics (c) SHARKPROJECT, Anja Weberberger, Michael Weberberger; Text: Friederike Kremer-Obrock)
STATUS AZORES CAMPAIGN 2014 – “THEY ARE GETTING SMALLER AND SMALLER …”
On 23 September 2014
The SHARKPROJECT campaigners Friederike Kremer-Obrock and Meik Obrock have recently returned from the Azores – with shocking and depressing information:
“In the summer of 2012 SHARKPROJECT documented for the first time the shark landings in the port of Horta on the Azorean island of Faial. There blue and Mako sharks are still loaded onto overseas containers by Spanish fishermen, bound for the Spanish mainland. These fishermen have an official license to catch swordfish, but their “by-catch” is made up of up to 95% sharks.
OFFICIAL CIRCLES CONFIRM ON ENQUIRY IN HORTA THAT 2 800 TONS OF SHARK ARE LANDED EACH YEAR. WE OURSELVES CALCULATE FROM THE DATA AVAILABLE TO US THAT THE NUMBER COULD BE AS MUCH AS 5 000 TONS OF SHARK PER YEAR. IN THE ENTIRE NORTH ATLANTIC THE SPANISH AND PORTUGUESE LONG LINE FISHING BOATS CATCH AN ANNUAL AVERAGE OF 60 000 TONS OF BLUE AND MAKO SHARK (ICCAT).
In July 2013 a new EU law came into force banning the practice of finning once and for all. Since then the fishermen must land the sharks with their fins still attached. In a meeting with the local government on the Azores in July 2013 we were told that the new EU law would mean financial ruin for one third of Spanish fishermen. At the same time we were assured that there was no finning carried out on these boats and our attention was directed to the now more elaborate storage of the sharks in the chillers on board. Warnings of economic ruin seem to have been proved accurate: In 2014, according to our local sources, far fewer Spanish ships landed sharks in the port of Horta. The floating fish factories in the channel between Faial and Pico also appear to have disappeared.
This could be seen as a positive development. However, as so often, you have to look closer to get to the truth of the matter: the sharks, despite keeping their fins attached, are no less effectively stored. This begs the question as to why it is suddenly no longer lucrative for one third of all fishermen. On the contrary: did finning continue until July 2013 in order to export the much more expensive fins to Asia?
This year, then, as we (as always unannounced) did our research on site, we noticed the following: on 28 July 2014 the Manuel Alba, sailing under a Spanish flag with the home port of Vigo, landed about 90 tons of fish, predominantly shark, in the port of Horta. On the surface this appeared to be the same story as in the past. Once more it took 16 hours to transfer the load from the boat straight into the overseas container. When you look a bit closer, however, you find some significant differences. For one thing, the crew now consists mainly of Philippinos, who work on these boats for a pittance, supposedly to reduce the wage costs of the owner.
FOR ANOTHER THING, IT WAS SMALLER, YOUNGER SHARKS THAT WERE BEING UNLOADED. WHILE IN 2012 IT WAS MOSTLY ADULT BLUE SHARKS AND VERY LARGE MAKO SHARKS THAT WERE UNLOADED, NOW IT IS PRIMARILY YOUNG SPECIMENS HANGING FROM THE CRANE’S HOOK. THEY ARE GETTING SMALLER AND SMALLER …
Other than that, things have stayed the same: the “by-catch” is still 95% blue and Mako sharks. The hunting grounds are off the coast of Newfoundland (Canada). On enquiry we were told to our alarm that it’s no longer worth their while fishing in the waters around the Azores as the sharks there are too small, and there aren’t enough of them.
When you think that, according to current studies from the Marine Institute of the University of Lisbon, the breeding grounds for the blue sharks and various other protected species of shark such as the Hammerhead are located in the waters of the Azores, and that studies show that these animals go from the area around the Azores through the entire North Atlantic, then alarm bells should be ringing with all concerned.
The fact is that diving centres are also complaining about a significant drop in shark numbers, even in protected areas such as the Condor Banks. In 2011/12 divers on the Condor Banks would be surrounded by between five and ten sharks, and even over a dozen in peak times, whereas in 2013 this had dropped to an average of three to four sharks. In 2014 you were lucky to see a couple of these animals per dive, and usually just one. The diving centres are sounding the alarm, as dive tourism is a lucrative source of income for the islanders in the summer months.
TO DATE THE AZORES HAS BEEN CONSIDERED THE SHARK DIVING SPOT ON EUROPE’S DOORSTEP. IF THIS TREND CONTINUES, THIS ACCOLADE COULD BE A THING OF THE PAST.
The call made by SHARKPROJECT for a large marine protection area around the Azores, which would only be accessible to sustainable local fishing outfits, has not yet got anywhere. We are constantly being approached by local fishermen who say that something has to be done to stop the shark landings.
It must be pointed out that on the Azores there is virtually no “shark” to be found on the menus of local restaurants. Shark does indeed feature on the menu of some tourist restaurants: if the local fishermen catch the odd shark it doesn’t go to waste. But there is no specific local shark fishing on the Azores, with one exception: shark can be found in supermarkets throughout Sao Miguel. The local catch statistics indicate a very small increase in the shark catch during 2011-13, which is really quite insignificant compared to the overall figures. Only the local deep sea long line fishermen represent a serious problem for the eco-system of the Azores, which needs a long term solution.
We asked the local government in the person of the Regional Director of Maritime Affairs on Faial for an official position on the current situation, but we have yet to receive any answers to our questions.
Some very important questions remain unanswered: we would like to have known whether and to what extent the landings in the port of Horta have reduced since July 2013. We would also have been interested to know what the local government is planning to do about the extinction of the blue and Mako sharks. Does it even see these species as endangered? Does it consider that the tourism image of the Azores is damaged by the shark landings in Horta?
SHARKPROJECT DEMANDS THE ESTABLISHMENT OF A 200-NAUTICAL MILE PROTECTION ZONE AROUND THE AZORES – BUT HOW REALISTIC IS THIS FROM A POLITICAL POINT OF VIEW? AFTER ALL, THERE IS NO DOUBT THAT THIS PROTECTION ZONE WILL HAPPEN EVENTUALLY AS IT IS THE ONLY WAY TO PROTECT THE NORTH ATLANTIC’S “SHARK NURSERY” IN THE LONG TERM.
In the meantime we have clarified the answer to the question about who actually eats the sharks that are landed in Europe’s ports: We do!
Demand for shark’s fins in Asia is (fortunately) in decline. The European demand for shark, on the other hand, is rising steadily. The shark’s fins that are exported to Asia only make up 5% of the body; 95% of the animal, namely the flesh, is not even exported outside Europe, but instead is consumed here, including in Germany.
We Europeans consume this shark meat in various forms: as fish and chips, as ‘conger eel’ or ‘rock salmon’, as ‘Schillerlocke’, as shark steaks in the Mongolian restaurant around the corner or (a fact that is often forgotten) as the basis of artificially produced fish products and dietary supplements.
ASIA HAS LONG CEASED TO BE OUR MAIN FOCUS OF ATTENTION – EUROPE IS INCREASINGLY TAKING CENTRE STAGE. IN SPAIN, ITALY, FRANCE, ENGLAND AND ROMANIA SHARK IS BEING EATEN MORE FREQUENTLY – AND THE SAME IS TRUE FOR US IN GERMANY.
A counter argument that needs to come into play here is that shark meat is highly contaminated with methyl mercury, and the same is true for swordfish and the popular tuna.
But back to the Azores one more time:
When it comes to its waters, the Azores continues to present an outward image of clean eco-tourism. The green islands have an increasingly stringent approach to waste separation. In front of every house in Flores there is a row of yellow, green, blue and black containers; a recycling plant is up and running. From 2016 there is an ambitious plan for the islands to be entirely reliant on renewable energy for their electricity. A large hydro-electric power station is already under construction.
However this is all in sharp contrast to the behaviour of inhabitants, especially when it comes to plastic consumption: plastic bags are given away freely in the supermarkets. You can sometimes count up to twenty individual plastic bags in a single supermarket trolley. And these bags don’t always find their way into sustainable recycling but all too often take a “short cut” into nature and the local waters. However, this should come to an end from 2015: plastic bags will be charged for, according to plans drawn up by the local government, so that this consumption will hopefully go down.
It just remains to hope that these environmental concerns will finally drop below the water line and into the seas around the Azores; that the local government will finally realise how important a healthy ocean is, both economically and ecologically. A consistent level of protection for the shark stocks of the Azores is essential for the entire eco-system of the North Atlantic.
IT IS FIVE TO 12, EVEN IF NOT EVERYONE HAS REALISED THAT YET.”
Pictures (c) SHARKPROJECT / Friederike Kremer-Obrock, Meik Obrock, Gerald Nowak, Anja Webersberger, Christine Gstöttner, Plos.One
Due to recent events – Sharkproject informs:
When the hunters attack each other, the loot wins
Imagine: several predators chase a prey animal and their alimentation depends on whether they eat the prey. But the predators do not only chase their common goal, but also try to bite their competitors throughout the whole chase in order to weaken them so that they can no longer keep up. As an effect, all hunters are slower due to the distraction, which allows the prey to escape. The hunters stay hungry.
Evolutionary, such hunting technique would not prevail, so there is no such situation in nature.
But that does not prevent people to again act against nature, against evolution:
Conservation organizations, as one would expect, should collaborate, communicate and exchange ideas. It may not be conducive to the common goal, when energy is spent to weaken each other. The one who understands evolution of the survival of the fittest in this sense, did not understand it at all. No organization is the measure of things, no organization alone could solve the enormous task which is the protection of species on our beautiful planet.
Nevertheless, we are witnessing just that. Garnished with personal attacks (which is known to automatically weaken any serious criticism) SHARKPROJECT is being accused of being uninformed and of having been lulled by and in Costa Rica.
We counter the criticism concerning this case: We are neither uninformed nor have we been lulled.
Fundament of the conferment of the award “SHARKPROJECT GUARDIAN of the Year 2013” to the President of Costa Rica, Mrs Laura Chinchilla Miranda, are the positive events in Costa Rica over the past months. The story is in fact slightly more complex:
More than 10 years ago, at the beginning of the long fight which SHARKPROJECT has fought together with PRETOMA (the Costa Rican shark protection), we made the first films about the machinations of the finning mafia in the private docks of Puntarenas at all. Together with PRETOMA we organized demonstrations, pressed criminal charges – but we fought against a wall of corruption, against an overwhelming shark fin lobby. Despite all protests, Costa Rica remained the main hub for shark fins.
But we did not give up. We funded and showed TV spots, and we voted the former President of Costa Rica, Abel Pacheco de la Espriella, “SHARKPROJECT SHARK ENEMY of the Year 2006” – combined with a full-page ad in the largest daily newspaper in the country, “La Nación”. Afterwards, it became quite heavy for ourselves when the first threatening letters and harassments reached us in Germany.
Since we did not let ourselves be impressed, we continued our fight, though almost hopeless in the face of the obvious power of the opposite side. In this phase, Gerhard Wegner’s novel “Finning”, which starts in Costa Rica, and in which the machinations of finning mafia are told along with many personal experiences, was created. With the money from the book’s sales we kept continuing the seemingly hopeless fight in Costa Rica.
Then Mrs. Chinchilla Miranda was elected president of Costa Rica. Against fierce opposition, she closed the private docks in 2010.The finning industry reacted quickly and started importing the fins from that moment on through Nicaragua – everything remained the same, only the route became longer.
Conjoined with PRETOMA, SHARKPROJECT reacted with a great action – we published a full page ad in the newspaper “La Nación” including with our campaign and a petition list. Hereafter, the President surprised again when she personally handed over a completed petition list, with signatures which her son had collected at school to Randall Arauz, President of PRETOMA.
She showed that she had understood and one year later, on December 1st, 2012, she also followed up on her promise to entirely prohibit the import of shark fins in Costa Rica. Therefore, the import through Nicaragua and other countries has been stopped as well.
As Costa Rica then announced to make applications for and to support the protection for hammerhead sharks, oceanic whitetip sharks and manta rays at the upcoming CITES meeting, the constant positive change in the government of a country that we had declared the shark enemy of the year in 2006 was from our point of view crucial for a nomination for the “SHARKPROJECT GUARDIAN of the Year 2013“.
Along with the award ceremony a few days ago, “El Aleteo”was presented, the Spanish edition of the novel “Finning”, which can now be acquired in Costa Rica. The proceeds from the sale of this anti-finning novel supports the further work of the organization PRETOMA. Their current campaign is directed against the tradional consumption of shark meat in the country. Next to us, the Costa Rican President is once again supporting this campaign.
In addition, in her acceptance speech at the award ceremony, Mrs Chinchilla Miranda promised a further change in the law, in order to ensure the sustainable reproduction of the animals.
We see all of this as a whole and as an incredible change of Costa Rica, mainly brought about by Mrs Chinchilla Miranda. The struggle in Costa Rica is far from being over, but the positive changes are obvious. This is also the opinion of those on the spot who deal with the matter. Doubters may contact Randall Arauz, President of the internationally award-winning organization PRETOMA. Together with Gerhard Wegner, he handed over the award on November 27th, 2013. He is as well our witness that we are not an “obscure” organization that does not exactly know what it does.
This new award ceremony has not been conducted blindfold at all, especially after the one in 2006. We have rather intensively been observing the changes in Costa Rica over three years before we awarded the prize – and we did not observe from a distance, but in fact locally over and with PRETOMA.
The “SHARKPROJECT GUARDIAN of the Year 2013” was then handed over to two people with the same goals and the same subject – namely the change in Costa Rica:The President of the country and the entrepreneur Sir Richard Branson. The parallely awarded “SHARKPROJECT ENEMY of the Year 2013 “by the way went to Colin Barnett, the Premier of Western Australia, for the government-sponsored call to hunt sharks.
Of course the shark protection is not yet perfect in Costa Rica. We do know the situation on the ground through many years of shared work with the organization PRETOMA, which we support. We know that there are counter movements, attempts to creep in, corruption and other illegalities in Costa Rica. We are not blind.
By the way: The award went to Ms. Chinchilla Miranda, not to the State of Costa Rica or to all its inhabitants. The prize was at no time awarded to someone who belongs to the finning mafia. The distorted representation of the critics concerning this point speaks for itself – and against the critics.
The prize awarded to the President is also in no way intended as a charter or closing communique – which has also been accentuated. Of course we still observe the development precisely and critically.
But we also know about the currently existing powerlessness of authorities around the conservation area Cocos Island from our own experiences and observations. There is still a lot of work left to do.
In our opinion this does not mean that we – like those who attack us – defame the government of Costa Rica as corrupt backers of the finning mafia just because there is currently no all-encompassing effective enforcement of good laws. What is actually expected here? Is Costa Rica supposed to invest billions in building a Navy to position armed warships all over the sea in order to arrest fishing boats? Anyone who seriously expects or demands this may never accuse others of having a problem with feasibility or reality.
The government of San José has set important steps by passing bills in order to stop the extermination of sharks. This is to be honored, and we stick with that. Handing the award over to the President was and is still the right thing to do.
The passed criticism on us is vociferous, but after closer examination attests to a bottomless ignorance. From our point of view, it is definitely the best way to accolade and support anyone who seriously tries hard, in order to motivate him on the right track – not to grossly stifle any attempt by condemning it already on the way, because some expected success is still missing. We are also quite confident that this interpersonal approach is not only pedagogically the right thing to do.
SHARKPROJECT is not militant, neither in action nor in words. We do not want to become entangled in further discussions. We will instead spend our time and energy on more important matters.
For there is truly enough left to do.
SHARKPROJECT International e.V.
President: Gerhard Wegner
Vice-President: Christine Gstöttner
Vice-President: Christine Staacks
SHARKPROJECT Austria e.V.
President: Dr. Walter Buchinger
Vice-President: Helmut Wipplinger
Vice-President: Elisabeth Buchinger
SHARKPROJECT Germany e.V.
President: Gerhard Wegner
Vice-President: Heiner Endemann
Vice-President: Wolfram Koch
SHARKPROJECT Switzerland e.V.
President: Nicole Blumenthal
Vice-President: Alex Smolinsky
Download this Press Release Statement (pdf, ca. 320 kB): click here.
SHARKPROJECT don’t give up on the Azores!
Already as from March an new newspaper campaign has taken flight: Our adverts (in Portuguese) appear regularly in two newspapers. In the adverts there is a link to our website with the most important information on shark fishing in the Azores in Portuguese:
This is all happening in cooperation with the newly founded organisation AOMA (Associacao dos Operadores de Mergulho dos Acores) and their president Paulo Reis. Paulo lives and works on the island of Santa Maria and is one of the most experienced divers and diving centre owners on the Azores. He has been a keen supporter of SHARKPROJECT right from beginning, so we are especially pleased to be able to work closely with him.
Another crucial supporter to our side is Nuno Sa, the world famous nature photographer and journalist. He too will work with us on the ads and newspaper articles for Sharkproject and the AOMA against shark fishing on the Azores. We are thrilled about this!
Both Paulo and Nuno are bursting with ideas about how we can protect the sharks of Azores in the future.
Wulf Köhler, also an experienced professional diver, who has lived on San Miguel for many years with his wife Dagmar, coordinates all this on the spot.
We’d like to thank all thress of them and their organizations for their tremendous support and efforts on the front-line!
Another aspect of our campaign is to be named (and will become a topic soon): Our SHARKPROJECT schools programme has been delivered to our supporters, various teachers, government and school representatives and will soon be taught in primary schools on the Azores.
Of course we will as well continue to observe the shark landings on Horta/Faial which are sadly still going on. The main concern is whether the now stricter EU-directives are being obeyed. We won’t give up here either. We will keep you informed.
Our Project-Leaders on the Azores are Friederike and Meik Obrock
On December 2nd, we received the following E-Mail from Randall Arauz, PRETOMA, Costa Rica:
As in any democracy, there is a division of powers. Such is the case in Costa Rica.
Not unique to our country, is the fact that fishery policy is established by the industry. This holds true in every country in the world, and the establishment of fishery policy by Regional Fisheries Management Organizations. Thus, even if a President has the political will to carry out a task, a unilateral totalitarian decision can not be taken. Laws have to be changed and created, and then of course, they must be implemented.
I have directed a shark campaign against shark finning since 2001, being one of the first Latin American organizations to address the problem. True, Costa Rica was the hub for shark fins from Taiwanese fleets since 1998, when the country invited foriegn fleets to land in the privacy of their own private docks. The Costa Rican Fishery Institute is ruled by a Board of Directors, among whose members are longliners with interests in the shark fin industry. One of our first victories was the requirment to land fins-attached, we were the first country in the world to do so, but the regulation was impossible to implement while foreign boats were allowed to land their products in the ilegal privacy of their docks. This has been a typical situation since we started our campaign in 2001. The executive branch wanting to implement shark finning regulations, and the fishery authoritiy protecting the interests of foreign fleets. Changing this political arrangement requires changes in the law.
So, why do we think President Chinchilla deserves the award? First and foremost, because she ordered the closure of the private docks on December 1 of 2010. Pretoma had won a Constitutional Court order in January of 2006, ordering the closure of the private docks. We asked former President Abel Pacheco (2002-2006) to implement the ruling, but he refused. Throughout the next President’s term (Oscar Arias, 2006-2010) the State Comptrollership ordered the closure of the docks, and the Congressional Environment Committee also issued a recommendation for thier closure…but the economic and political power of the foreign fleets was too much. Arias also refused to close the docks. Our position back then was clear cut. As long as the foriegn fleets are allowed to land in the privacy of their own docks, no regulation will be efficient. Recently after Laura Chinchilla took office, she ordered the closure of the private docks (December 1, 2010).
The efficiency of the measure was immediate. No foreign boats landed for three months. Then, in March of 2011 a boat was caught landing 2000 kilos of sharks without fins. The tawianese Captain and company were fined for over $60K , but then came the question, what happened to the fins? They were landed in the Nicaraguan port of San Juan del Sur, and then reimported into Costa Rica by land. In April and May two more taiwanese boats were caught landing shark fins attached to spines. The President of INCOPESCA was recently criminally charged by the Puntarenas prosecutor for allowing one of these landings. No more landings of fins attached to spines have occurred, nor are on record. The vast majority of the foreign fleet left Puntarenas and moved to other countries. Privated docks are for sale. However, it was now necessary to stop shark fin imports.
The shark fin imports case was exposed to the Costa Rican public through a full page add in the main newspaper, La Nación, in November of 2011. We asked the President to close this loophole, and to foster the protection of hammerhead sharks in CITES. By June of 2012, Costa Rica included hammerhead sharks in Appendix III of CITES (the first and only country in the world), by October of 2012 Costa Rica bannned shark fin imports, and by March of 2013 Costa Rica led the global process, together with Brazil and Honduras, to list hammerhead sharks under Appendix II of CITES.
Thus, we beleive the President deserves the award, because:
- She ordered the closure of privated docks.
- She ordered the ban on shark fin imports
- Costa Rica spearheaded the listing of hammerhead sharks in CITES with Honduras and Brazil.
Furthermore, Presidents in Democratic countries are clearly not dictators, they are under a lot of pressure from interest groups. Since Costa Rica has the fundamental problem every other fishery nation has, and its that corporate interests dictate fishery policy, these decisions were not easy to take, and met with major political opposition, in spite of which the President stook to her guns. To strengthen the implementation of marine conservation policy, she created the Vice Ministry of Oceans. Costa Rica has always been in the front lines of the battle against shark finning. We were the first nation to implement a fins attached policy against shark finning, which has been followed by the entire American continent, the European Economic Union and Australia. We were the first and only nation to list hammerhead sharks under Appendix III, and led the process for an Appendix II listing. Certainly, things could be better, but these are complicated political processes, change doesn’t come overnight.
We are currently campiagning for a reform of the Costa Rican Fisheries Institute, that would remove the Board of Directors and return the establshment of fishery policy to the public interest. This reform requires the approval of the Congress. Obviously, this propobal will face enormous opposition by the typicial corporate interests that have dictated fishery policy in Costa Rica forever. We hope this award will strenghten Chinchilla’s position to foster this needed change, that a bill will be sent to the Congress to reform the fishery institute, and that a domino effect will follow in the region and the world, with more and more nations returning the establishment of their fishery policy to the public interest, where the best science available is used and the laws are respected.
PRETOMA will continue to obtain these reforms and turn Costa Rica into the global marine conservation leader it needs. Organizations like Shark Project have been instrumental in supporting our efforts. The Shark Enemy Award, granted to President Pacheco in 2006, cast a spot light on Costa Rica as a shark finning nation. This current award to President Chinchilla casts another spotlight, but on a nation that is changing for the better.
Fotos (c) Randall Arauz / Pretoma / La Nación