Oceans are essential to existence of all life on Earth, and yet perhaps mankind’s most ruthless exploitation is taking place in the seas through overfishing, pollution and other environmental impact that damages biological diversity and the very basis for life both underwater and for humans on land.
For this reason The Göteborg Award for Sustainable Development in 2010 goes to two prominent persons who have in different ways strongly contributed to solutions for sustainable relations with our oceans.
The prize, one million Swedish crowns, will be divided equally between Ken Sherman from the U.S.A. and Randal Arauz from Costa Rica.
Dr. Ken (Kenneth) Sherman is the director of the Narragansett Laboratory and the Office of Marine Ecosystems Studies in NOAA’s Northeast Fisheries Science Center (NEFSC), and an adjunct professor of oceanography in the University of Rhode Island’s Graduate School of Oceanography.
In the 1980s, Dr. Sherman, together with others, pioneered the concept of large marine ecosystems (LMEs). Sherman and his colleagues recognized that large areas of the oceans function as ecosystems and that pollution, unsustainable fishing practices, habitat degradation, toxic pollution, aerosol contamination and over exploitation of living resources, along with natural factors, influenced the varying productivity of these ecosystems. Against this background is a growing recognition among world leaders that positive actions are required on the part of governments and civil society to redress global environmental and resource degradation with actions to recover depleted fish populations, restore degraded habitats and reduce coastal pollution.
Randall Arauz, a conservationist who founded the Costa Rican non-profit NGO PRETOMA (the program for the restoration of sea turtles) in 1997, has become a world leader in the work to ban shark finning. PRETOMA is a marine conservation and research organization working to protect ocean resources and promote sustainable fisheries policies in Costa Rica and Central America.
As a turtle biologist and conservationist, Arauz worked with the shrimp industry in Costa Rica to reduce the sea turtle casualties associated with trawling. After some success in introducing new trawling technology to the industry, he learned that long-line fishing boats were also to blame for sea turtle deaths. When Arauz’s friend got a job on a long-line shark fishing boat, Arauz asked him to film the fishing technique. The footage he received of fishermen cutting off the fins of living sharks completely shocked him and sparked his subsequent commitment to stop shark finning in Costa Rica.
The practice of shark finning has been widely criticized as wasteful by conservationists and brutal by animal rights activists. Many species of sharks are now critically endangered. Over the last 50 years, global shark populations have declined by 90% as a result of overfishing, which has been made worse by the growing demand for shark fins.