Costa Rica vs Sharks – How government greed is pushing sharks into extinction.

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When you think of Costa Rica people picture expansive, rich green forests, beautiful oceans and an abundance of animal life. All of this is true, but everything is not so sunny in paradise. Earlier we wrote about the effect the banana plantations have on the the wildlife, the human populace and Costa Rica’s lush land and how the government is doing nothing to stop them or protect the country. Even more recently the Costa Rican government made a poor and hasty decision to roll back protection on sharks in their waters if they have a commercial value. Um, WHAT?

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Shark population decline is a serious worldwide issue. Around 11,000 sharks are killed everyday. Many species of shark are either endangered or threatened under the CITES list. In 2013 Costa Rica moved to protect several species of shark and have them listed under CITES protection which was successful. They even banned shark finning and shut down some docks that were frequently breaking the law. Still shark finning remained an illegal activity in Costa Rican waters and 410kgs of fins were exported out of Costa Rica on route to Hong Kong by American Airlines in 2014. The fins came from two protected species and was one of several exports that stopped in the US. This was in violation of both American laws and, supposedly, Costa Rican ones. The shipments, though, were  strangely approved by the Costa Rican government. Thankfully the transport company, American Airlines, has now agreed to stop shipping shark fins, as well as UPS, however the issue of shark finning and killing in Costa Rica remains.

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Upon hearing Costa Rica’s new stance on sharks, which is to protect the fishermans’ livelihood (and not the sharks),  Randall Arauz, president of marine conservation group PRETOMA stated, “[The Environment Ministry] doesn’t care about science anymore. They’ve decided that the traditional knowledge of fishermen is now better than the best available science about what is detrimental to fish populations”.  With this new measure they are also going to ask UPS and American Airlines to change their stance on shipping shark fins. This destroys not only any chance for the sharks to survive but also reexamines catch sizes that are there to protect fish (because, let’s face it, overfishing isn’t a serious issue either.) In addition there are plans on overturn a bill to make shrimp trawling legal again. Remember it’s those pesky trawlers that damage the ocean. And sharks, pfft ….they aren’t important for ocean health and also society has deemed them menacing and dangerous. Why not rid the ocean of them with some ridiculous legislation? As a result we can enjoy all of the fish for twenty years or so and then wonder what happened when there are no fish left in the ocean and the our ecosystem is destroyed. I worry that this isn’t a solid plan, Costa Rica.

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Sharks aren’t just imperative to ocean health, but they are worth way more alive than in a soup bowl. The shark tourism industry brings in around $314 million A YEAR and it’s expected to rise exponentially. However,a kilo of shark fins is worth a mere $650.  Oddly enough that one shark who can produce millions of eco tourism dollars is worth so little as a one time fin experience. Thankfully, the government is getting quite a bit of negative press about it,  but will it be enough to save this ancient species.

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Costa Rica used to be known as the country who cared. A country that proudly proclaimed that had a zero carbon footprint. Now will they become just  another greedy country who cared more about a quick buck then preserving the ocean, and the planet, for future generations? When your grandchildren ask what happened to the sharks will you tell them that governments like this were the ones who pushed sharks to extinction? Costa Rica, it would be shameful if that was your future.

– Sarah

http://aella.org/2012/05/shark-finning-plight-of-the-shark/

http://www.seashepherd.org/requiem/why-we-need-sharks.html

http://news.mongabay.com/2015/04/fracas-over-costa-rican-shark-fin-exports-leads-american-airlines-to-stop-shipping-fins/

http://www.ticotimes.net/l/shark-fin-scandal-in-costa-rica-has-solis-administration-on-the-defensive

http://www.ticotimes.net/2015/10/14/costa-rica-government-will-no-longer-support-shark-protection

http://www.seashepherd.fr/news-and-media/editorial-090618-1.html

http://www.costaricantimes.com/sharks-have-received-their-death-sentence-from-costa-rica/41502

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Poison Bananas: peeling back the truth on the wildlife crimes in your fruit bowl

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Don’t get me wrong I LOVE Costa Rica and it is one of the most beautiful places in the world, but something dodgy is going on. Costa Rica is portrayed as being a green, safe haven for wildlife. But what most people don’t seem to realise is that alongside this protect the world image they are also the number one user of pesticides in the world. It’s not a small number either. Costa Rica use over 50kg of pesticides per ha in comparison to number two on the list, Colombia, who only use 16.7kg per ha. That’s a BIG difference.

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The big fruit companies in Costa Rica; Dole, Del Monte and Chiquita do not have a good reputation here. They may provide jobs but they also provide poor working conditions, work around toxic pesticides that has made most of the male workers infertile, and the occasional murder. And that’s just the workers they’re effecting. They also cause mass deforestation, deadly Fer de Lance snakes are thriving as a knock on effect and all of these pesticides run off in to the water killing fish and poisoning the water supply.

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Out of all of the producers here in Costa Rica, Chiquita International are probably the worst. Supposedly they are environmentally friendly on 100% of their farms according to The Rainforest Alliance. It seems The Rainforest Alliance must have been high on the fumes from the pesticides they use (or the smell of thousands of dollars) to have given them this status. A dark history has plagued Chiquita International and for good reason. One of their most famous evils was genuinely funding terrorism in Colombia, no I’m being serious, this actually happened. They were even fined $25 million by the US government for doing this and sued by 4000 Colombians whose relatives had been straight up murdered. How is this company even around still let alone one of the main producers in Costa Rica?!

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The three producers; Dole, Del Monte and Chiquita have been sued over and over again. Remember me mentioning about the pesticides making their workers infertile? Dole was one such company famously sued for this and ended up paying some of the workers in compensation. Chiquita have been constantly accused of violating it’s workers basic rights and endangering them (also don’t forget the actual mass murder) and just last month a lawsuit has been filed against them for polluting local water sources and then COVERING IT UP.

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It’s not just the human populace that this is effecting, the animal population is also suffering. Fish are constantly seen floating upside down in droves when it rains and the pesticides flow from the plantations into Costa Rica’s natural water sources. Crocodiles in the local areas have also been noted as being in poor health compared to other areas. To utilise all of that land for banana’s and other fruits also means chopping down a lot of pristine rainforest – not good for the planet or the animals that live there. That brings me round to Sloths (of course), I have seen multiple sloth babies with varying degrees of deformities. Although full research has not been completed on this it’s not a big jump from crop dusting banana plantations and the surrounding area to sloths eating the leaves with pesticides on to babies being born with genetic deformities. It doesn’t take a scientist to work out the correlation. In fact a study last year showed that wild sloths in the area had pesticide residue embedded on their hair, nails, teeth and skin. How does a country that perpetuates itself as being green and a haven for wildlife allow this to happen? Unfortunately a different kind of green $$$ is always more important.

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All of this makes me rather sad, Costa Rica is such a wonderful country. It seems that just because all of this isn’t happening in a Western Country no one really seems to give a crap. Out of mind out of sight eh? Well let’s put it another way; the banana’s that YOU are eating from these companies are not only destroying natural habitats, violating people’s basic human rights, polluting water sources and making animals ill are also pumping tons of poison into those yummy banana’s that you eat everyday. Those banana’s are covered in pesticides before they start growing and are then effectively fumigated in the heaviest toxins while they grow for weeks in pesticide bags. How are you feeling about that banana now? To put this into even better perspective for you – Costa Rica isn’t the richest nation in the world, sometimes a truck breaks down full of bananas and they are left by the roadside while it gets fixed. Despite the offer of free food, even the poorest Costa Rican’s will not eat banana’s grown by Dole, Del Monte and Chiquita. They would rather starve than put that poison in their stomachs. And that’s food for thought.

Sarah Kennedy

Other/Further Sources:

http://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2005/mar/13/foodanddrink.globalisation

http://www.crsurf.com/news/environment/agri-pollution.html

http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Agriculture_in_Costa_Rica

http://thinkprogress.org/world/2014/08/02/3466915/chiquita-colombia-ruling/

http://news.co.cr/is-costa-rica-really-drowning-in-agricultural-pesticides/30663/

http://content.time.com/time/world/article/0,8599,1616991,00.html

http://www.theguardian.com/sustainable-business/2014/dec/19/chiquita-lawsuit-green-marketing-bananas-water-pollution

http://time.com/3534631/history-bananas/

http://www.mediaite.com/online/chiquita-bananas-blocking-911-victims-bill-to-avoid-punishment-for-funding-terrorism/

http://www.care2.com/greenliving/chiquita-bananas-accused-of-contaminating-drinking-water.html?onswipe_redirect=no&oswrr=1

http://www.makefruitfair.org.uk/get-involved/appeals/end-violation-women-s-rights-chiquita-dole-and-del-monte-plantations