6/04/2010

Shark Finning

A recent article in a local Costa Rican newspaper got me thinking about just how irresponsible so many are when it comes to our oceans. Don't for a second get me wrong, I love making money and begrudge no person for pursuing wealth and fame, but when that profit comes at the expense of simple conservation principles I cringe. This article detailed the plight of several Taiwanese fishermen that were being held captive on a Costa Rican registered fishing vessel and forced to haul sharks out of the sea for their fins.

If I have said this once, I have said it to the point of exhaustion, we are in a race to catch the last fish. Now, I could go into detail about the cramped harsh conditions the workers were kept in and the 20 hour work days, but my focus is on the reckless and idiotic practice of shark finning. As the world's demand for sharks continues to grow, shark populations are plummeting. Sharks are particularly vulnerable to overfishing because they grow slowly, are late to mature and produce relatively few young. Currently more than a fifth of shark species are listed as threatened with extinction.



Shark finning, huh! What the hell kind of practice is that? Finning consists of hauling sharks out of the water, slicing just their fins off and then tossing their bodies, often still alive, overboard to rot in the water. The fins are then sold to Asian markets for use in “delicacies” like shark fin soup. Why would anybody want to eat a sharks fin? Because, it gives you virility, or so the story goes.

This is a horrible and destructive fishing technique that has been going on for years and you would think it would be illegal in most civilized countries. But, not in Costa Rica, where all things are green and the people love nature. I bet most people do not even know this savage practice takes place in this country. Here is one caveat, while selling shark fins is not illegal in Costa Rica, removing the appendages before docking is prohibited. Ohhhh, that's so much better. What, are you kidding me? When the fins are worth so much more than the bodies, finners prefer to cut the fins off at sea and dump the carcass back into the ocean. You know, who needs those pesky shark bodies taking up valuable space in the cargo hold.



Even though it is illegal to land fins without the shark in Costa Rica, there is little or no enforcement to worry about. I have witnessed first hand fishermen hauling basket after basket of just fins onto the beach. Odd you might think. Not really! The Asian market where these fins are sold has no regard for the oceans or how many thousands of tons of sharks are killed each year for their fins.

“The Ministry of the Environment, Energy and Telecommunications has said that the Taiwanese boats had all the necessary permits to fish for sharks in Costa Rican waters and that, as far as fishing is concerned, the owners of the ships did not commit any crimes.” This quote is taken from Mike McDonald at the Tico Times. They had the proper permits and no crimes were committed. How sad this commentary is for the world. And the more curious aspect of the story is that the enslaved fishermen tell a different story. They say they were hauling in fish after fish and slicing off their fins while at sea. Huh, who should we believe?

Whether this takes place in Costa Rica or any other country, practices like this must stop. We are emptying our oceans at an ever increasing and alarming rate. Metric tons of sharks, tuna, swordfish, marlin and so many more species are being harvested to feed our appetites for fish. This is unsustainable. How many excuses can we come up with for why we should continue with the status quo? Large scale international commercial fishing operations are a scourge to our planet. Maybe one day you won't be able to buy shark fin soup or a tuna steak. What then?



Share the experience, sell the dream...Full Throttle Media! FTM Seth Horne

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