Sharks have played a key part in controlling the marine ecological systems for hundreds of millions of years. However, shark populations around the world have been rapidly decreasing over the past few decades due to over fishing and shark finning. Shark finning is the practice of catching sharks at sea, removing their fins, and throwing the sharks back into the ocean. Though it is considered wasteful and inhumane, it is practiced worldwide to fuel the “shark fin soup” industry in Asia. At nearly $200 per pound, the practice of shark finning is a big and profitable business.
PRETOMA is a non-profit marine conservation and research organization in Costa Rica that was started by Randall Arauz in 1997 to protect the Costa Rican sea turtle populations. However, when a colleague aboard a fishing boat showed him some disturbing footage of shark finning, he knew something had to be done. Fishing boats tow long lines baited with hooks so that they can catch thousands of sharks in a single haul. The fins are hacked off while the sharks are still alive, and the sharks are then thrown back overboard. The regulation laws in Costa Rica demand that ships with imported goods land in public facilities, but fishing boats carrying shark fins were bypassing the laws by landing on private docks.
In 2003, PRETOMA managed to film a Taiwanese ship illegally landing and unloading 33 tons of shark fins in the middle of the night. In 2004 alone, Costa Rica exported more than 8,000 tons of shark fins, making it the third largest supplier to Asia. To prevent further damage to the shark populations, PRETOMA launched their No Shark Finning Campaign. They asked that foreign vessels flying flags of convenience be required to land at public docks instead of private ones, so that their cargo can be regulated.
Randall Arauz and other members of PRETOMA were frequently threatened and warned to back down but after a long campaign, the Costa Rica government passed a law stating that sharks must be landed with their fins naturally attached. PRETOMA is now working to promote a global mandate demanding that sharks be landed with their fins naturally attached. To help prevent further decline of the shark populations, PRETOMA is studying their migration patterns. You can help fund their research and preserve the shark populations by making a donation or adopting a shark.