CISABROAD BLOG · May 17, 2016 · 2 Min Read
The Costa Rica Shark Fin Trade
Michelle Montes Profile
Michelle M. is a student at New Mexico State University and was awarded the Green Scholarship from CISabroad. During her Semester in Costa Rica she has learned about Costa Rica’s Shark Fin trade, and is hoping to raise awareness about this hidden issue.

Before coming to Costa Rica, when I heard the Three R’s, reduce, reuse, recycle, I only thought of recycling paper, reusing plates and reducing the amount of Little Caesar’s pizza I eat, since the boxes are not recyclable. After being here for almost four months, I have come to fully understand the importance of the Three R’s.

Costa Rica is home to Cocos Island, a small island about 300 miles away from the coast, which is home to one of the highest populations of hammerhead sharks on the planet. Unfortunately, Costa Rica hosts a huge black market that is responsible for illegally selling hammerhead and other species of shark fins to the Asian market. Shark fin soup has historically been a product consumed by the wealthy within Asian cultures. One bowl of soup sells for 100 USD. A single fin can be used for thousands of dollars on the market. In order to obtain the fins, sharks are caught and brought on board where their dorsal fins, pectoral fins, and caudal fins are cut off. Afterwards, the remainder of the shark is thrown back in the water and left to die. This process is killing off the oceans top predator. Less sharks causes an increase in organisms that sharks eat. Wiping out the top of the food chain wipes out the entirety from the bottom up; and in this case, the bottom of the food chain is phytoplankton. Less phytoplankton means less oxygen.

Michelle Swimming with White Tipped Reef Sharks in Costa Rica

I understand culture is important and that thousands of animals die every hour at the hands of humans, but this practice is inhumane, wasteful, and dangerous to the natural balance of the world’s largest ecosystem. I hadn’t realized how important sharks were to the ecosystem. Four months ago, had someone brought up the decrease in shark population I wouldn’t have given it a second thought. Now I realize how uneducated I was and I could not be happier with my choice to study abroad with CISabroad. I hope I have inspired you to look into this important issue and be aware of the potential threats to our environment. It is important to spread awareness of this critical problem that faces the marine ecosystem. Improvement can only be met if we use our voices and speak out against shark finning.

Michelle wearing her “Yo no cómo tiburón” shirt in San Jose, Costa Rica.

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