Shark fishing and finning is responsible for the shockingly steep decline in the populations of our oceans’ apex predators — as much as 99% drop among several species. Sharks, a vital part of marine ecosystems, are disappearing throughout the world’s oceans as they are caught as by-catch, actively fished, and most cruelly, finned.
Thankfully, governments around the globe are picking up on the problem and many are instituting stricter regulations or outright bans on fins or the practice of finning — catching a shark, cutting off the fins, and dropping it into the sea to slowly die by drowning.
The latest news is a big victory for these important animals: The European Union (EU) officially adopted a strict ban on shark finning late last week.
Saturday ended nearly a decade of battle to close several enforcement loopholes that had permitted some forms of shark finning. Finning has technically been prohibited in the EU since 2003, but an exemption allowed Member States to issue special permits for fishing vessels to remove shark fins on board. In particular, an exemption used by Spain and Portugal allowed some vessels to remove sharks’ fins at sea, which made it nearly impossible to detect and monitor the finning that was occurring.
Somewhere between 80 million to 100 million sharks are killed every year, primarily as by-catch or for their fins, used in a traditional Asian soup though it adds zero flavor and zero nutritional value, and instead posses a heath risk as it contains heavy metals and toxins accumulated in animals that dine high on the food chain.
At the rate at which sharks are being fished, we can expect global population crashes within a handful of decades, which has severe repercussions for the marine ecosystems that depend on these predators.
“At long last, the EU has a real and enforceable ban on shark finning, with global implications,” commented Xavier Pastor, executive director of Oceana in Europe. “The EU catches more sharks than any country in the world, and plays a key role in regional fisheries management organizations where finning remains an acknowledged problem. After ten years with a flawed ban in place, it can now make a serious effort to tackle the issue internationally.”
Shark Fin Poaching Decreasing Shark Population in Costa Rica
The Costa Rica News (TCRN) – The shark population is decreasing at an alarming rate due to “shark finning”, which is illegal in Costa Rica, but widely practiced.
Shark fins have been big business in Costa Rica for many years and in recent years authorities have made significant efforts to stop shark fin poaching.
Legal loopholes and lack of protection policies are identified as the main factors favoring the illegal practice of “finning” (cutting fins) of sharks in Costa Rica, which occupies the third place as an exporter of shark fins , after Taiwan and Spain.
“Shark Finning” is an ancient practice that consists on fishing sharks and cutting their fins in order to sell them, whereas the rest of the animal’s body is thrown away.
According to Alvaro Morales Ramirez, director of the Center for Research on Marine Sciences and Limnology (CIMAR in Spanish) at the University of Costa Rica (UCR), this practice is the main cause of the disappearance of sharks, a species now included in the list of endangered organisms.
Morales participated in a discussion on the subject organized by the Environmental Legal Office of the Faculty of Law, where Viviana Gutierrez Delgado – MarViva Foundation lawyer – also participated.
The biologist stated that shark fisheries are a problem worldwide and that they carry responsibility for the decline of this species. He indicated that there are no policies for control of finning nor for conservation. It is estimated that annually 200,000 tons of shark are discarded.
Morales pointed out that recently the governmental authorities were asked to temporarily establish a total or partial ban on shark fishing until the results of scientific studies on the populations of species of sharks in Costa Rica are known.
However, the Costa Rican Board of Fishing and Aquaculture (INCOPESCA in Spanish) rejected the request, after presenting technical and scientific arguments.
The report on the subject was presented to the community of Puntarenas at the Pacific Headquarters of the UCR, in the presence of Luis Gerardo Fallas Acosta, defender of the inhabitants.
He stated: “It is important to establish a complete ban on holding, storage, trading and transport of shark fins at the sea or any unauthorized place”.
The report suggests the need for restructuring INCOPESCA, starting by reorganizing its board of directors, since it is not fulfilling its role: to defend marine resources.
In addition, the report also points out that the Marine National Commission has not clearly established measures against finning, which leaves the issue at the expense of a whole political debate.
“Finning, besides being a cruel practice against the animal, has serious economic and environmental implications”, adds the article.
As regards the economic factor, finning means a waste of marine and coastal resources and the loss of a great source of protein, which affects food administration.
Regarding the environmental aspect, it poses a serious threat to the sustainability of these species and their habitat, as well as to the biodiversity in general, due to the risk of losing of species.
The CIMAR director referred to the importance of protecting sites of reproduction of sharks, such as Térraba-Sierpe Wetland, the Gulf of Nicoya, Quepos and Manuel Antonio, on the Pacific coast.
In Costa Rica, the legislation allows shark fishing, but not solely for their fins. The MarViva spokeswoman explained that one of the gaps in this field is that only fishing is regulated, while other steps of the finning process are not considered, such as trading, labeling, exporting and importing fins.
The Fisheries and Aquaculture Law, the main legislation in this field, establishes a penalty of six months to two years of prison for the discarding of fins without their body in order to sell or market them.
The Costa Rica News (TCRN)
San Jose Costa Rica
Source: The Costa Rica News
Editorial: SELVA-Vida Sin Fronteras
Gustavo López Ospina
Pieter Jan Brouwer
Assistant: Emilia Romero
The Amazon Pink Dolphin’s Voice is associated with the International Environmental Mission, a grass roots citizens movement created by Chilean Senator Juan Pablo Letelier.
SELVA Vida Sin Fronteras acknowledges Kevin Schafer’s important contribution towards protecting the highly endangered Amazon pink fresh water dolphin. Title photographs of our “The Amazon Pink Dolphin’s Voice” were taken by Mr. Schafer.