By Jaime Lopez
The migratory patterns of certain marine species during the green (rainy) season prompt illegal fishermen and shark finning crews to ply their wicked trade in Cocos Island National Park, off the Pacific coast of Costa Rica. Tuna, sharks, large sea turtles, and even the curious-looking mola mola (ocean sunfish) are the typical catch that these poachers of Costa Rica’s precious marine resources are after.
Although the climate conditions are not the best for illegal fishermen and shark finning crews on the surface, the waters off Cocos Island are teeming with diverse species. From July to November, the inclement weather and oceanic conditions near Costa Rica’s largest maritime national park make it difficult for fishing, but that does not seem to keep the poachers away. In the past, the harsh weather conditions kept the National Coast Guard Service and park rangers on dry land, and the poachers took advantage of this.
A few years ago, responsible mariners and environmentalists noticed increased poaching activity around Cocos Island National Park during the green season. Law enforcement and nature conservation officials increased surveillance around that time. A recent report by Pablo Rojas of online news daily CRHoy.com indicates that the Coast Guard, along with park rangers and members of the non-profit marine conservation group Mision Tiburon, described recent efforts in this regard:
A joint security patrol confiscated a total of 12 fishing lines and more than 400 lures, which were all in protected waters of the national park. This is even more than usual for the season,” explained Geiner Golfin, administrator of Cocos Island National Park. One of the lures identified is shaped like a dolphin and made from wood. Once in the water, its movement attracts schools of tuna fish seeking protection from sharks. Dolphins do not get along with predator sharks and will vigorously fight them if needed.
None of the fishing vessels recently boarded at Cocos Island had any catch aboard, although it is possible that the crews might be offloading to other boats. Although tuna, sharks and turtles are the focus of poachers now, this may change once Dorado fish, Coryphaena hippurus, is in high season.