San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Poker Tourney Helps Sharks (the Real Kind)

The term card shark took on new meaning at the Latin American Poker Tournament, held last weekend in San José.

Thanks to cooperation between poker pro Humberto “The Shark” Brenes, Costa Rican businesses and the Marine Turtle Restoration Program (PRETOMA), more than $21,000 was raised for shark conservation.

Brenes, a Tico, owns a peanut and legume export company called Nueces Industriales and is a well-known professional on the poker team.

Before last weekend’s tournament, Brenes called on his fellow players to donate 1 percent of their winnings to PRETOMA’s Shark Conservation Program.

More than 150 players put their anted up to Brenes’ challenge. Brenes said he will match the donations dollar for dollar.

PokerStars, an online Web site, then matched that sum, which was then again matched by the Avina Foundation, a Latin American sustainable development organization.

In the end, 23 of the 150 pledged players made it to the finals.

Worldwide, shark populations are falling, some dangerously. The IUCN (formerly known as the World Conservation Union) has listed 11 shark species as “high risk” for extinction, and another five species are showing signs of decline, the BBC reported.

In Costa Rica, PRETOMA’s conservation efforts have mainly focused on stopping shark finning, a practice in which fishers slice the dorsal fin off a shark and then throw the live animal back into the ocean to die of drowning.

In some Asian cultures, the shark’s fins is coveted for its supposed aphrodisiacal qualities, and is commonly served in soup.

Though the practice of shark finning is illegal in many countries, including Costa Rica, it is believed responsible for 200 million sharks a year, PRETOMA says. Shark fins continue to be unloaded at private docks in Costa Rica by foreign flagged boats, thereby skirting official oversight, PRETOMA says.


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