October 10, 2012

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By Richard Branson

We’re in Costa Rica today with very exciting news from the OceanElders‘ efforts to stop shark finning.

I saw the film Sharkwater a few years ago and it shook me to the core. Here we were decimating 1.5 million sharks per week – all for a bowl of soup. Like anyone who has seen the film, I was determined to do anything I could to see if I could help.

Sharkwater was largely based around the slaughter of sharks off Costa Rica, where you also have the beautiful Coco Islands. It was sickening to see the tens of thousands of shark fins drying out on the roofs and to see live sharks being thrown back into the water to die after their fins were cut off.

One of the great advantages of becoming a reasonably well-known figure is that it does enable one to get access to leaders of countries. As an OceanElder, I wrote a letter with former President of Costa Rica Jose Maria Figueres to the current President Laura Chinchilla and continued to lobby behind the scenes.

In addition to the open letter a number of followers in Costa Rica also did wonderful work in the lobbying process. Special congratulations to Randal Arauz who heads PRETOMA, Irene Suarez who leads environment within Proyecto Pais, and Arnoldo Mora a young IT specialist who came up with the idea of collecting signatures to show public support for government action on this issue.

I’m delighted to say that as a result President Chinchilla has invited us to join her in Costa Rica in counter-signing a new Executive Decree that will forbid the importation, exportation or transportation of fins from sharks. In a nutshell, this stops all trade in finning in Costa Rica.

Because of the particularly narrow geography of Costa Rica, the country controls ocean spanning 10 times its land mass, so is a critical nation to take a lead on shark finning.

This is fantastic news for the oceans, especially following the world’s largest marine park that has been created in Australia. A great start for the OceanElders but an awful lot of work still to do. Using this precedent it should be much easier to get other countries to follow suit. We are gaining incredible momentum, building on the work we started with WildAid and Virgin Unite.

Top image: Shawn Heinrichs/ Richard’s Blog

This post was originally published on Richard’s Blog located on virgin.com

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