Catching Shark Finners Red-Handed

An environmental team tracks down Costa Rican poachers killing hammerhead sharks.
Promoted byPromoted by Pivot - Operatives
Oct 6, 2014·
Todd Woody is TakePart's editorial director, environment.

How do you catch poachers in Costa Rica who cut the fins off sharks, throw the animals overboard to slowly die, and then sell the body parts to Asian restaurants that make shark fin soup?

One way is to surreptitiously attach satellite tracking devices to suspected poachers’ boats while they’re docked in port. Then track the vessels to a protected marine preserve 500 miles offshore, and sneak up on the poachers under the cover of darkness to video them violating national law.

This is precisely what happened on the final mission of The Operatives, the series that wrapped up its first season Sunday on Pivot TV, the television network owned by Participant Media, TakePart’s parent company.

Pete Bethune, the Operatives’ leader, gives a wrap up of the mission to Costa Rica’s Cocos Islands in his Captain’s Vlog. (Check out the video above.) The ocean surrounding the Cocos, a national park, is home to one of the world’s largest populations of hammerhead sharks, and that has attracted the shark finners.

“Sharks are apex predators,” said Bethune. “They take out the weak, old, and sick fish and help maintain the genetic strength of the species they predate upon. Remove all the sharks, and you take away a key element of the ecosystem that can lead to its collapse.”

Humans kill an estimated 63 million to 273 million sharks a year, according to a 2013 study.

The GPS-tagged video the Operatives captured will be turned over to Costa Rican law enforcement authorities.