Commentary by Captain Paul Watson
For years, the tiny nation of Costa Rica has enjoyed the fruits of the myth that it is some sort of ecological paradise. The truth is that Costa Rica is one of the most corrupt and ecologically destructive nations in Latin America.
Ecuador, Panama, and Columbia are far more concerned about ecological issues and controlling environmental crime than Costa Rica. But Costa Rica has a good public relations agency and a steady stream of green washing keeps Costa Rica dazzling green like an emerald on the outside as a steady rot permeates the nation inside.
Aside from the chemical pollution of the banana industry and the destruction of the rainforests by overzealous logging, Costa Rica is one of the most shark-destructive nations on Earth. In the port of Puntarenas, the "shark-fin mafia" controls the police and the courts, has bought the local politicians, and has tentacles that slither their corruption in the government bureaucracies in San Jose.
We have watched as the shark population in the waters around Cocos Island and along the coast of Costa Rica have declined at an alarming rate. It is a serious situation and this diminishment is being fueled by Costa Rican political and bureaucratic corruption.
The extent of this criminal activity can be seen in the recent seizure of a ton of cocaine found inside the frozen bodies of sharks on board the freighter Dover Strait by Mexican authorities.
The frozen sharks were loaded onto the freighter in Puntarenas, where the illegal shark finning industry operates openly and without interference by the police.
Navy inspectors at the southeastern port of Progreso, in Yucatan State, on Tuesday detected an anomaly in two shipping containers during a routine X-ray, according to a navy news release.
The inspectors zeroed in on a shipment of sharks. Upon slitting one of the frozen fish open, they found black bags containing rectangular packets filled with cocaine.
In all, authorities recovered 870 packages of cocaine, weighing 894 kilograms (about 1,967 pounds), the navy reported.
The same criminal elements involved in illegal shark finning are also involved in the illegal drug trade. Shutting down the shark-finners in Costa Rica would go a long way towards crippling the drug traffickers.
Julie Andersen of Shark Angels responded to the drug bust by saying, "Perhaps now, people will see the shark fin trade for what it is: a disgusting, destructive industry that is rife with murder, greed, triads, and big, big money... just like the drug trade. While shocking, it is hardly surprising that drugs are being hidden in shark meat, as it is reported that drug dealers have long been laundering dirty money through the shark fin trade. What many fail to realize though, is at the rate sharks are disappearing from our oceans, soon their value could be far higher than that of the seized cocaine - not just on the dinner table, but to our oceans teetering on the brink."
Sea Shepherd operations were shut down in Costa Rica in 2005 after Sea Shepherd equipped the Cocos Island rangers with enforcement materials, generators, radars, and outfits. Eight fishermen simply accused us of attempting to murder them and despite video coverage of all activities by Sea Shepherd and without a shred of evidence other than their accusation, the Puntarenas courts ordered my arrest and detention for one year while they investigated the accusation. Later a judge contacted me to say that the order could be rescinded for $100,000. I replied that we don't play such games.
At this very moment on the waterfront of Puntarenas, the shark finners are loading and unloading shark fins, drying them on the roofs of their buildings and most likely stuffing cocaine into the bodies of sharks before freezing them. Yet not one Costa Rican police officer or Coast Guard officer has seriously investigated this den of slaughter and corruption.
Vice and bribery are the rule in Puntarenas. The judges, the prosecutors, and the police are paid off and the never-ending destruction of marine eco-systems continues unabated.
Shark fins and drugs, bribery and corruption, ecological destruction, illegal fishing and chemical pollution are the evils that have taken over in Costa Rica. The government is run by political whores and the Puntarenas courts are run by law whores, all willing to sell out the once diverse and beautiful ecological marvels of Costa Rica. Soon the "rich coast" will no longer be rich in diversity and the destruction of the shark and the collapse of the fisheries will herald the destruction of the nation of Costa Rica, a nation being diminished by those whose duty it is to protect the nation politically and legally.
The Sea Shepherd Conservation Society salutes the vigilance and professionalism of the Mexican authorities for intercepting these frozen sharks and their cocaine entrails.
Muchas gracias a los Federales Mexicanos por un trabajo bien hecho!