Regional conference calls for an end to shark massacre
Regional Conference of the Shark Coalition, specialists and NGOs from Mesoamerica and South America, condemn the brutal practice of shark finning.
San Jose, Costa Rica, December 8th 2006
At the conclusion of a workshop, twelve shark experts from seven countries in South and Central America today called for increased global protection for sharks http://www.tortugamarina.org/downloads/pdf/statement-sharks.pdf
The workshop, convened by Costa Rican NGO Marine Turtle Restoration Program (PRETOMA), and sponsored by the Humane Society International, was attended by participants from El Salvador, Mexico, Honduras, Panama, Costs Rica, Colombia and Ecuador. The workshop called for an immediate end to shark “finning”, a widespread and cruel practice where sharks are hauled up on deck, have their fins sliced off – often while still alive – and are then thrown back into the water. The fins are sent to east Asia, to make shark fin soup, a symbol of wealth and prestige among eastern Asian communities. Experts estimate that tens of millions of sharks are finned around the world every year.
Twenty percent of shark species are now considered to be endangered, while dozens more species are yet to be assessed. Experts believe that many more of these species will be added to the endangered list, unless urgent measures are taken.
“As the Asian economy booms, especially in China, we are going to see an even more rapid depletion of sharks in the entire South and Central American region, where east Asian fishing boats number in the thousands”, says Randall Arauz of PRETOMA. “Our governments must work together to ensure that finning is outlawed throughout the region”.
Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Panama, Ecuador and Brazil are the only countries in the region that have banned finning in their waters. “But we must ensure that these bans are properly enforced, and that finning bans spread throughout south and central America”, says Carlos Hasbun of FUNZEL, El Salvador.
Satellite tagging has revealed that sharks are highly migratory species that can travel many thousands of kilometers in the space of a few months.
“Sharks can cross and re-cross international boundaries on a daily basis –what happens to sharks in one country’s waters affects shark populations throughout the region. Regional co-operation is the only thing that makes sense”, says Patricia Forkan of the Humane Society International.
In a statement signed by all the participants, the Shark Coalition called on their governments to work together to protect the region’s shark populations, and to make greater efforts to persuade the global community to prohibit shark finning throughout the world’s oceans. They also called on the governments of shark fin-consuming countries to educate their citizens to seek environmentally friendly alternatives.
“Sharks play a key role in the balance of marine ecosystems”, says Forkan. “But millions are literally being thrown away for the sake of an elitist symbol of wealth. This is totally unsustainable and it needs to stop”.