John Quam Editor in Chief Howler Magazine Costa Rica

September & October 2019 Howler Magazine Editorial: Be Part of the Solution.  A little over two years ago, we launched a series of Howler articles with the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society related to endangered ocean life around the world. In particular, we highlighted the obstacles to Sea Shepherd’s activism in Costa Rica against shark finning and other illegal fishing activities.

In response to these articles, Howler received many comments and concerns. Various horror stories about illegal fishing remain etched in my thoughts. For our magazine to cast an unfavorable spotlight on the Costa Rican fishing authorities was viewed by some as an attack. Well, it was!

It is our duty to not only showcase this country’s good news stories but also issues that affect us in detrimental ways. Costa Rica rightfully touts its eco-conscious achievements on many fronts to the world. But at the same time, blind eyes are turned to the stripping of fish from our oceans and their endangered cleaners, the sharks.

Certain recent developments on the Sea Shepherd horizon, highlighted in this magazine issue, have brightened our outlook. That is not to say that our previous articles are any less relevant, and we encourage readers to browse through archives.

Some of our firsthand research for the 2017 articles took place on board the MV John Paul Dejoria, anchored just off the coast of Puntarenas at the time. As part of the Sea Shepherd’s fleet of marine patrol vessels, this ship is named for the benefactor who donated it to help advance progress in restoring ocean ecosystems. The impact of Sea Shepherd campaigns to make our world more livable, one protected ocean spot at a time, cannot be overstated.

Our interactions with ship crew members affirmed how dedicated they are to saving marine wildlife from illegal fishing. At the same time, they have taken on other formidable causes in the name of ocean conservation, notably the garbage dumps that are afloat and washing up on coastal shores everywhere.

We cannot live in a world without a healthy ocean. Water is our life; without it we die. The amount of trash in the ocean is abhorrent and puts the world’s marine population at risk as victims of human thoughtlessness.

Almost daily, I see pictures of fish, whales, turtles and many other sea creatures that have ingested our garbage and died, often after unimaginable suffering. These images are deeply disturbing.

While championing these issues with a sense of short-term urgency, Sea Shepherd also devotes significant time and resources educating future generations to care for ocean life. The message for youth is that everyone can make a difference within any community, no matter how small.

Earlier this year, Costa Rica’s Minister of Environment and Energy, Carlos Manuel Rodríguez, initiated steps to have the courts dismiss longstanding criminal charges against the Sea Shepherd’s founder, Captain Paul Watson. Minister Rodríguez also reached out to the Sea Shepherd’s Costa Rican contingent to work with the government in a renewed partnership to protect the country’s treasured marine life. A massive-scale cleanup of Cocos Island in March was an impressive success story.

We applaud the forward-thinking initiative of Minister Carlos in taking the reins to reinforce Costa Rica’s global position as an ecological gem. Consistent with his passion for the environment, this was a motivating factor in embracing his current portfolio.

At the community level, countless groups of volunteers work tirelessly to keep our beaches clean and promote recycling. Tamarindo’s Clean Wave project and Surfriders Foundation chapter, the Flamingo Beach Association and the Eco-Coco group in Playas del Coco are just a few examples. The dedication of these people to daunting goals plays a big part in making life in Costa Rica better for everyone.

Please do your part. Whenever you visit a beach or mountain area, pick up items that don’t belong in our natural environment and dispose of them properly. Be part of the solution and make a difference.