Bill that would return wildlife status to sharks in Costa Rica was signed by the Congress’s Environment Commission.
Coalition of NGOs submitted bill, December the 17th, 2020
A popular initiative consisting of a bill that would return wildlife status to sharks was signed today by the Costa Rican Congress’s Environment Commission and thus accepted for analysis and approval prior to a plenary vote, expected within a year. A coalition of NGOs led by Carolina Ramírez of Unidos Por los Tiburones and under the technical advice of Randall Arauz, of Fins Attached, submitted the proposal to the Environment Commission last October 15, with the support of the Citizen Participation Office. Other NGOs supporting the initiative included CREMA, Sea Shepherd-Conservation Society, Tiburones Vivos, OneSea, and Pelagos.
As global shark fisheries have suffered depletion several species have been driven to threatened and endangered status, and have been listed for protection under different international conservation of wildlife conventions, such as the Convention on the International Trade of Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), and the Convention on the Conservation of Wild Animals (CMS).
Prior to May of 2017, shark conservation policy was dictated by the Ministry of Environment through the implementation of the Wildlife Conservation Law. After this date, however, the government promulgated that sharks weren’t to be considered wildlife anymore, but rather commercial species of fish. As a result of this move, the Ministry of Environment was stripped of its authority over sharks, delivering it to the Fisheries Institute which must now dictate shark conservation policy through the Fisheries Law. Even though the export of Critically Endangered hammerhead shark products is currently banned, the species is still caught in commercial fisheries unencumbered under the guise of bycatch, and the meat is widely consumed domestically. The catch of threatened species such as thresher and silky sharks doesn’t only remain unencumbered, with no catch or size restrictions, their fins are still freely exported to Hong Kong and their meat consumed domestically, under the supervision of the Fisheries Department. This would NOT be happening if the Ministry of Environment protected sharks under the Wildlife Conservation Law!
The bill proposes an amendment to Article 1, paragraph 4, of the Wildlife Conservation Law, so that it reads: This law does not apply to commercial species of fish, unless they are listed under a threatened category of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), or under an Appendix of CITES, in which case this law must be fully implemented.
“We expect this bill to enjoy the support of all the members of the Congress and for it to pass a plenary vote without a problem”, expressed a hopeful Carolina Ramírez, of Unidos Por Los Tiburones. “This issue concerns all of us, the entire society, no matter what your political colors are,”, affirmed Ramírez.
“No doubt, having the Fisheries Department dictate conservation policy for threatened shark species works in their detriment”, denounced Randall Arauz, of Fins Attached. “As long as we expect the Fisheries Institute to dictate efficient conservation policy using the Fishery Law, we can expect threatened shark population to continue their negative populations trend towards extinction”, sentenced Arauz.
For More information: Carolina Ramírez
Unidos Por los Tiburones