Where the lines are blurred: who gets to legislate the ocean?


Sharks off the coast of Costa Rica (photo by flickr user Christian Haugen)

Less than three weeks ago, Costa Rica’s President Chinchilla signed a ban on shark finning. This marks a move in the direction of global action, in a market that lacks any sort of international regulation.

Between 1996 and 1998, several east coast states enacted bans on shark finning. Maryland, Delaware, North and South Carolina, Virginia, New York, and Maine prohibited finning. However, there remains a discrepancy between the management programs of these states and those that did not adopt protective measures. The issue here is that sharks swim. They swim in, around, and out of regulatory boundaries set by governments.

Beyond the Atlantic, this is an even greater problem, considering that finning is an international business. Costa Rica held a large number of shark fisheries in the Central American region. Thus, this national ban neglects the identical problem in neighboring Honduras, as well as nearby Peru.

The SharkDefenders showcase the number of sharks killed each year. Each fin represents 100,000 sharks (photo by flicker user Angelo Taotaotasi)

So far, the only movement to regulate international waters has been a grassroots one. Citizens, NGOs, and the Internet all contribute to the development of some sort of global supervision of finning. They beg for help, mostly from governments to join together in producing a transnational institution or agreement to eradicate finning. In the same way the WTO sets the rules of global trade, this movement asks for governments to do the same.

…stay tuned as I plan to address this phenomenon in an upcoming photo essay!


2 thoughts on “Where the lines are blurred: who gets to legislate the ocean?

  1. What brought about this change in Costa Rica? It’s interesting to see how some countries have acknowledged the problem while others haven’t. I look forward to seeing the photo essay.

    • The last Costa Rican president, Pancheco, worked with Taiwan’s former president Chen Shui-ban to crack down on finning (since most of the trade was between those 2 countries).

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