Rangers at Cocos Island in Costa Rica recently discovered an endangered green sea turtle hooked by fishermen. Fortunately, the turtle was released alive, though injured.
While Cocos Island is, in fact, a national park, the rangers’ discovery suggests foul play in protected Pacific waters. Conservation officials say the incident draws attention to the threat of illegal long-line fishing.
Biologist and executive director of the Sea Turtle Restoration Project, Todd Steiner, said in a statement earlier this week,
Pirate fishermen are wreaking havoc on sea turtles and sharks of the Pacific, even at this remote ‘protected’ site, more than 350 miles from the mainland, destroying one the most incredible hotspots of marine biodiversity in the Pacific.
And while they are killing endangered sea turtles, the primary goal of these pirate fisherman is to actually catch sharks for their fins, which are then shipped to Asia to make shark fin soup.
Fisherman release long-lines that have hundreds and sometimes thousands of baited hooks inside these waters and risk unintentionally killing wildlife—not only turtles, but also whales, dolphins, and seabirds.
Steiner added that park rangers have accumulated a mountain of long-lining gear in the surrounding waters of Cocos Island.
“When fishers are willing to risk losing many thousands of dollars of gear, it confirms this is not an isolated incident,” he said.
The hooked turtle named Swift is one of 17 turtles tagged with a satellite transmitter off the coast of Costa Rica as part of a conservation project conducted by the Sea Turtle Restoration Project and the Costa Rican organization Pretoma.
The conservationists are tracking the sea turtles’ migrations in hopes of eventually creating protected swimways that will guide the turtles to and from their feeding and nesting areas.
While Cocos Island is commonly referred to as Shark Island for the abundance of hammerhead sharks, white-tipped reef sharks, and whale sharks swimming in its tropical waters, it comes as no surprise that the island is a hot spot for shark hunting.
Even though the island’s protected waters were expanded last year by five times what was already labeled a ‘no-fishing zone,’ these pirate fisherman refuse to stop. And despite the fact that shark fin trading is illegal in Costa Rica, it still continues. Sign the petition to the President of Costa Rica requesting to stop the shark finning once and for all!
Alisa Manzelli, Global Animal