Costa Rica takes three big steps to promote sustainability

Costa Rica is one of the world’s most biodiverse nations with 25% of its land protected as national parks or reserves.   With their recent ban on hunting, ban on shark finning and commitment to becoming carbon neutral by 2021, Costa Rica is an exemplary model of how to promote sustainabilty.

  • Banned hunting

This month, Costa Rica became the first Latin American country to ban hunting as a sport, after an unanimous vote from Congress to reform its Wildlife Conservation Law.

Under the new law, those caught hunting can face up to four months in prison or fines of up to $3,000.

Smaller penalties for people who steal wild animals or keep them as pets were also included in the reform. Jaguars, pumas and sea turtles are among Costa Rica’s most treasured species and are often hunted or stolen as trophies.

The ban does not apply to hunting by some indigenous groups for survival or scientific research.

  • Become carbon neutral  by 2021
In 2009, Costa Rica announced that it would be the world’s first carbon neutral country by 2021. To achieve carbon neutrality, a country must  balance the amount of carbon dioxide it releases by burning fossil fuels with the amount that it captures or offsets by, for example, planting trees.

The first phase of Costa Rica’s carbon neutral strategy involves reducing emissions in two key sectors – energy and agriculture. Officials plan to convert land used in cattle ranching and coffee farming into more forests by planting 7 million trees in coming years.   Costa Rica is already the only tropical country with more than half of its territory covered in forests.

  • Banned shark finning

This year, Costa Rica passed a blanket ban on shark finning, in which the fins are sliced off sharks, often while they are alive, before the fish are thrown back into the ocean to die.  The new order amends previous legislation that outlawed shark finning but continued to allow the transportation and importation of fins from other countries.  Penalties under the ban include fines and the cancellation of fishing licenses for those who are caught finning sharks. Catching sharks for food, as a means of subsistence, however, will continue to be allowed.

Costa Rica’s President Laura Chinchilla also announced an investment of up to $15 million in a new radar system that will allow authorities to better identify boats breaking the ban.

Environmental activists have campaigned against shark finning for years.  Shark fins are in high demand in countries where shark fin soup is considered a delicacy.