Discovery Channel’s Shark Week kicked off on Sunday and millions of viewers are expected to tune in to watch sharks at their most ferocious. As powerful as they are, however, sharks are critically endangered, in large part because of shark finning – the practice of cutting off fins from live sharks and tossing them back into the ocean to die.
2010 Goldman Prize recipient Randall Arauz has spent more than a decade fighting this practice in Costa Rica. As the next step in his ongoing campaign, Arauz, founder of the Costa Rican conservationist group, Pretoma, has delivered a new petition with 1,937 signatures to Costa Rican President Laura Chinchilla calling for an immediate ban on shark fin importation. Combined with two petitions delivered last year, a total of 4,500 people from 34 countries have voiced their support for the shark fin ban.
Although the country enacted legislation in December 2010 to make it illegal for international ships to land fishery products on private docks in Costa Rica (which had allowed ships to evade customs regulations), the shark fin industry continues to use loopholes in the legislation to import shark fins through Costa Rica. Fishing vessels land their products in Nicaragua and use trucks to move the shark fins overland into Costa Rica, and then export them to Asian countries where shark fin demand is high. Since December 2010, Costa Rica has imported almost 35,000 pounds of shark fins from Nicaragua.
In a recent statement, Arauz, who has been one of the world’s leaders in the fight to ban shark finning, called the importation of shark fins into Costa Rica “a mockery of our legislation.”
Arauz was awarded the Goldman Prize in 2010 for his tireless campaign to halt shark finning in Costa Rica, which raised global awareness of the issue and made his country an international model for shark protection.