By Jaime Lopez
Coco Island and her surrounding maritime zones in Costa Rica have been protected by standing legislation over the last few years. This, however, has done little to prevent the incursion of nefarious shark finning crews who thumb their noses at the law and prey upon the selachian species that make the waters of Coco Island their home.
According to online news daily Costa Rica Hoy, illegal fishermen and shark fin poachers continue to operate around Coco Island despite the increased of law enforcement officers in the area. In mid-July, a joint effort from the National Coast Guard Service and National Park Rangers resulted in the confiscation of fishing gear and catch from a fishing vessel that had cast its lines near the island. According to Geiner Golfin, administrator of the Coco Island National Park, authorities did not find detached shark fins aboard the vessel; however, their intelligence on this particular crew led them to confiscate their shark catch and gear.
This is what the Coast Guard and Park Rangers in Costa Rica know about the current situation in Coco Island:
- The waters of Coco Island are brimming with marine life, which in turn attracts a rich diversity of shark species, which in turn attract nefarious shark finning crews.
- The shark fin poachers are motivated by the lucrative demand for shark fins, which are considered an expensive delicacy in certain Asian cultures -particularly in China and Taiwan. With the economies of China and other Asian nations in full bloom, more people can afford -and want- shark fin soup.
- There is enough evidence to belief that shark finning around Coco Island is organized by a commercial fisherman in Puntarenas who owns a tuna fishing fleet. In recent years, however, this fleet has used tuna catch as a cover and have focused on shark finning. They used to hack the fins off sharks while at sea and throw them overboard where they suffer as they bleed and sink to death.
- Increased enforcement by the Coast Guard around Coco Island and other areas in Costa Rica has forced this fake tuna fishing fleet to operate a clandestine dock where they hack off fins and dispose of the sharks surreptitiously. Authorities are working to find this dock and shut it down, but another illegal shark finning dock could be set up in just a few days.