Sharks and Costa Rica

Hammerhead shark in Costa Rica © Avi Klapfer

By Dr. Erick Ross Salazar of the MarViva Foundation (a Mission Blue partner)

Sharks are an essential part of the oceans. Their presence is an indicator of the good health of an ecosystem; their absence is representative of an overfished and out of balance marine environment. Even though sharks have been traditionally vilified in movies and general media, the public is nowadays more aware of their value to sustain life in the oceans and is more proactive in asking governments for their protection.

Costa Rica has recently promoted several initiatives oriented towards managing sharks responsibly. In 2013, the government passed a decree banning shark finning and emphasizing existing restrictions. Also in 2013, the government joined efforts with Brazil and Honduras and spearheaded the advocacy for the inclusion of hammerhead sharks in Appendix II of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). In 2014, the government joined efforts with Ecuador and led the advocacy for the inclusion of hammerhead sharks in Appendix II of the Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals.

Recently however, the Ministry of the Environment’s decision to allow the exportation of hammerhead shark fins caused a flurry of opposition in Costa Rica. Once a species has received protection in Appendix II of CITES, any government wishing to export the said species must produce a non-detriment finding. This is an analysis of the vulnerability of the species in the country and whether allowing the exportation will be prejudicial.

In Costa Rica, the Representative Council of Scientific Authorities (CRAC-CITES in Spanish) is responsible for these non-detrimental finding evaluations. In December 2014, CRAC-CITES approved an initial request to export 411 kilograms of hammerhead fins. One of the main arguments to allow this exportation came from the National Fisheries Authority (INCOPESCA), which stated —> Read More