Why Does Shark Finning Happen?

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On their current expedition to Cocos Island, a worldwide hotbed of shark exercise, Mission Blue sat down with Randall Arauz, a lifelong marine conservationist and recipient of the Goldman Environmental Prize in 2010 for his efforts in defending sharks and the banning of the shark finning business in Costa Rica. What follows is a primer on why shark finning occurs and the way science may also help cease it and inform smart conservation administration methods. The questions have been requested by Kip Evans, Mission Blue’s Director of Images and Expeditions.

Randall Arauz, of Fins Attached

Randall Arauz, of Fins Hooked up

Might you describe the shark fishing and finning drawback on a worldwide degree?

Shark finning is a worldwide problem and it began within the 80’s when the lengthy line explosion occurred all through the world and the fishermen noticed that they might make a fortune off of shark fins. And the large situation is that shark fins value $100/kilo for the fins, whereas the meat of the shark solely prices 50¢/kilo. If you’re a fisherman, your limiting issue is your holding capability. So would you relatively convey your maintain filled with meat that's value 50¢/kilo or shark fins which might be value $100/kilo? That’s the financial incentive to fin the sharks.

And this has been occurring everywhere in the world for many years. And the large drawback is the Taiwanese businessmen come to nations like Spain, Costa Rica, Mexico, Ecuador – they usually purchase these fins from the home fishermen. And there’s some huge cash to be made, so the locals make some huge cash. And these shark fins get despatched to Hong Kong, which is the hub of the Taiwanese shark finning business. And from Hong Kong, they get distributed all through Asia. It’s an enormous operation. A multimillion greenback operation. And there have even been ties to native mafias in Asia that work together with this market. It’s very very profitable.

Inform us about your work with shark finning in Costa Rica.

We’ve been engaged on the shark finning difficulty since 1997. We truly blew the whistle on what was happening in Costa Rica then. Sadly, once we found out what was happening in 1997, the shark finning fleet from Taiwan had had 15 years of time to work right here in Costa Rica, utterly unchecked and freely finning sharks. Ever since, we’ve had a marketing campaign to attempt to reverse the state of affairs, first by creating legal guidelines and laws towards shark finning. Second, and maybe crucial half, is implementation and ensuring the laws are revered.

What's the drawback with the Taiwanese coming to a spot like Cocos or fishing off different elements of the Costa Rican coast?

Again within the 80’s when Costa Rica invited the Taiwanese to return to Costa Rica, and all through the area, the native fleets have been fishing simply off the coast. And as you realize, Costa Rica has Cocos Island and this large EEZ (Unique Financial Zone). Again then, politicians used to say that we “lived with our again in the direction of the ocean” and that we would have liked to take advantage of this large useful resource, the Costa Rican EEZ, which is ten occasions greater than the nation itself. So the federal government of Costa Rica determined to ask a Taiwanese mission to coach Costa Ricans tips on how to lengthy line within the open ocean.

However when the Taiwanese diplomatic mission got here, they noticed the wealth that might be made right here on the shark fins. That’s once they determined to show from technicians to businessmen. I can freely say they corrupted the Costa Rican authorities. Tens of millions of dollars have been concerned; they invested cash on enhancing infrastructure in Puntarenas. They did a boulevard in Puntarenas. They constructed docks they usually truly turned concerned with the Costa Rican Fisheries Institute. They usually just about acquired a grip on Costa Rican fisheries coverage.

shark fins

Inform me how the fins are processed via Costa Rica that the Taiwanese deliver to shore.

The Taiwanese are working all through the Japanese Pacific, all the best way from Mexico right down to Northern Chile. And Costa Rica, for at the very least 20 years, was the hub of the shark fin business. These boats are both Taiwanese flagged – or Belize or Panama flagged utilizing flags of comfort – however all these boats have been overseas boats. And due to that, these boats have been supposed to make use of public amenities by which to land their merchandise. On this means there could possibly be accountability. As an alternative, for a few years these overseas fishing vessels have been free to function and convey all of the shark fins that they might from the entire area to their personal processing crops right here in Puntarenas. After which they might dry the fins and immediately export them. And let’s keep in mind that in 2001, Costa Rica was the third international shark fin exporter with near 950 tons a yr.

Inform me about how Fins Attached is making an attempt to make a distinction and get the legal guidelines modified in Costa Rica.

We have already got the anti-shark finning regulation. And through our previous administration with President Laura Chinchilla we have been capable of record hammerhead sharks beneath CITES (the Conference on Worldwide Commerce in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora). Now, one of the best factor can be if we might snap our fingers and eliminate the overseas fleets altogether, however in fact, these individuals are very properly ingrained in Costa Rica by now. They've plenty of political sway and financial help. And so we’re making an attempt to curtail this example with the instruments which might be offered to us by worldwide coverage.

So, first we went with President Chinchilla to CITES and we have been capable of record hammerhead sharks on Appendix II, which can impose worldwide laws. We additionally lately labored to get silky sharks and thresher sharks listed. CITES is a superb alternative, however CITES by itself isn’t going to do something. CITES is a software that we as conservationists have to make use of to work with our governments to ensure these laws are literally carried out. And that’s what we’re doing proper now. We are actually respiration down the Costa Rican authorities’s neck. We're watching every part they're doing with the shark fin business. And we're blowing the whistle as a result of Costa Rica is doing every little thing potential underneath this new presidential administration of Solís to bypass the CITES laws.

And what we do is expose the state of affairs, take the federal government to courtroom, attraction to public opinion and finally attempt to avert this travesty that's occurring now in Costa Rica. Give it some thought: Costa Rica, the worldwide conservation nation…and we’re additionally the shark finning nation and one which violates worldwide conventions on endangered species.

Might you describe the tagging you're doing and clarify the way it could make a distinction for the sharks?

To save lots of sharks within the Japanese Pacific, or anyplace on the earth, we have to know the place they're going. We all know that sharks are extremely migratory. However the place are they going? We all know they don't seem to be randomly distributed all through the ocean. There are areas the place sharks wish to congregate and Cocos Island is one among them. Right here, whenever you’re diving out at Manulita and also you see all these hammerhead sharks, they aren’t distributed like that randomly all through the ocean. There are very particular locations the place they do that – and they're referred to as scorching spots. Cocos Island is one. Galapagos is one other.

However we have to know, for instance, how are the sharks from Cocos Island referring to sharks in different scorching spots like Malpelo Island off the coast of Colombia or Galapagos off the coast of Ecuador? Are they the identical sharks? How do they relate to one another? Solutions to those questions are essential for conservation administration. And so we have to coordinate with totally different nations and see the place the sharks are going. And that’s what we’re doing with the tagging.

And naturally, with this tagging effort, we additionally have to collaborate with the researchers within the area. As a result of I might tag a bunch of sharks at Cocos Island, but when I’m not coordinating with the researchers at Galapagos or Malpelo, or on the mainland, we’re not going to know the place these sharks are going. So that is actually staff work. And lots of researchers need to get collectively so we will determine this out. And that would be the solely method that we will design actual administration plans and conservation plans. If we all know the place they're going and when they're going.

What do you see as the way forward for these sharks?

We've to be optimistic. Let’s keep in mind that in response to the science, we nonetheless have 10% of the sharks that we had 50 years in the past. So we now have to get busy. My objective is for all sharks sooner or later to take pleasure in this similar safety that sea turtles at present take pleasure in, that's, complete safety from worldwide commerce.

Founding father of Mission Blue, Dr. Sylvia Earle shares how we as divers could be part of defending and restoring our oceans throughout her current journey to Cocos Island.

In case your inspiration to start out diving got here from Jacques Cousteau, then Cocos Island ought to be in your radar: he thought-about Cocos Island to be probably the most lovely island on the earth. Read more about this Hope Spot here.

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