In a ceremony in Germany this past weekend, the conservation group Sharkproject International awarded Costa Rican President Luis Guillermo Solís the “Shark Enemy of the Year Award.” The award is given each year to a public figure deemed by environmental groups to have done the most to hinder protections for global shark species.
Environmental groups announced Solís’ nomination for the “award” in November with a full-page advertisement in the daily newspaper La Nación. Among the reasons they listed for the nomination were the Solís administration’s promise to fishing groups that it would no longer support additional protections of shark species in international conventions and the adjustment of minimum catch size requirements.
The Solís administration has rejected the award, and claimed its new shark fishing policies are an attempt to alleviate coastal poverty. The government said Monday that the Solís administration “has assumed energetic global leadership in terms of species conservation at the international level.” The government cited as an example its push to include two species of hammerhead shark and the silky shark in Appendix II of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, or CITES, which regulates trade of threatened species. That lobbying effort took place in 2013, before Solís was president.
Solís is the second Costa Rican president to receive the Shark Enemy of the Year Award, following former President Abel Pacheco in 2006, who was criticized for failing to act against the country’s then-rampant shark-finning industry. In 2013, Solís’ predecessor, President Laura Chinchilla, was given the positive Shark Guardian of the Year Award, for closing down shark-finning operations on the Costa Rican Pacific coast.
As is typical of the award’s recipients, Solís did not attend the ceremony. Instead, Sharkproject International will send the president his rusty metal shark fin trophy in the mail.