By Captain Alex Cornelissen, Director of Operations, Sea Shepherd Galápagos
The Costa Rican government is making feeble attempts to hold up the illusion they care about Costa Rican waters. Ever since Captain Watson was arrested in Germany and heavy criticism befell upon President Chinchilla’s administration for this clearly politically motivated court case, reports have been issued in the Costa Rican media about small scale finning operations being apprehended. Whereas this seems to be a positive development, truth is that it is nothing but a smokescreen. The Costa Rican government is not doing anything to stop illegal shark finning in their waters. It seems that now not only Sea Shepherd is convinced of this, so is the nation’s own media, as illustrated in this recent article from the Costa Rican Times.
Unfortunately, this is the reality for the Rangers on Cocos Island. Foreign fishing vessels wreak havoc on the shark populations in what is supposed to be a designated marine protected area and World Heritage Site. The Rangers have limited resources and can’t possibly catch all the vessels. They are up against whole fleets with no support from their government or coast guard. Sea Shepherd made the offer to help patrol the protected area of the Cocos Island Marine Reserve in 2002 and again in 2012, but our help is not welcome. Not that Cocos Island is hard to control; in fact, it is one of the easiest places in the world in which illegal fishing can be shut down. This can be done very efficiently at minimal cost. Clearly we could make a difference, like we have been doing in the Galápagos for years, but it seems that level of control is going to interfere with the bribes the Costa Rican government is receiving from the shark finners.
The Costa Rican government is making a mockery of the progress other countries in the region have achieved by continuing to pretend they have the shark finning problem under control. Reality is, the foreign shark finning fleets are controlling Costa Rican waters and the Chinchilla administration isn’t doing a damn thing about it.