Shark Protector, Carolina Ramírez
Costa Rica-born Carolina Ramírez found herself through diving with sharks. Now, she will stop at nothing to save the creatures she loves most in the world from exploitation.
Image © Andy Mann
Image © Andy Mann
Carolina Ramírez, 2022 Tide Turner
As a scuba diving instructor and shark activist, Carolina Ramírez shares the beauty of the ocean with others and teaches them the importance of sharks for marine life and the survival of our planet. She is the founder of Unidos Por Los Tiburones (“United for Sharks”), an audiovisual campaign involving 91 Costa Rican and international organizations committed to shark conservation.
For Carolina, the last few years have been an emotional roller coaster tied to her determination to protect sharks. Carolina was working abroad as a scuba diving instructor when she found out Costa Rica, seen around the world as an environmental leader, was heavily commercializing sharks; as a result, shark populations were in steep decline. She decided then and there to return home and help however she could.
Wanting to increase people’s awareness of and empathy toward sharks, and to foster communication between shark conservation organizations, Carolina founded Unidos Por Los Tiburones (“United for Sharks”) in 2018, an audiovisual campaign to help sound the alarm about sharks being killed for profit in Costa Rica and elsewhere. Since Unidos Por Los Tiburones launched, Carolina has collaborated with many of its 91 partner organizations and taken on roles such as rallying public support, organizing protests, and giving educational talks.
Carolina sees compassion as a superpower for the conservation movement. She says, “Compassion is the first step. If you feel compassion, you will raise your voice to save this species in critical danger of extinction.” Through digital and in-person campaigning, Carolina hopes to inspire all kinds of communities to stand up for the ocean.
In 2020, Carolina began advocating for a bill developed by renowned shark conservationist Randall Arauz and a group of Unidos Por Los Tiburones’ partner organizations to categorize sharks as wildlife instead of a commercial species. If passed, it would protect Costa Rica’s most vulnerable sharks from domestic and international trade. But in early 2021, a concerning setback took place: President Carlos Alvarado Quesada removed the Ministry of Environment and Energy’s ability to monitor shark populations in Costa Rica, gutting one of the last remaining protections for species like the scalloped hammerhead.
In a show of solidarity, people from across the globe added their names to a petition calling for an end to shark killings in Costa Rica, and in February, Carolina went in person to deliver almost 50,000 signatures to the government. Over the next two months, another 70,000 people signed the petition. Combined with signatures gathered on other sites, this meant more than 170,000 global supporters took action to protect sharks as wildlife in Costa Rica. It demonstrates the power of acting as one to protect wildlife and heal our planet — something Carolina brings wholeheartedly to her work.
Carolina knows this progress is just the beginning. In addition to championing ongoing efforts to effectively protect sharks across Central and Latin America, she will use the funds she receives as a Tide Turner to run new and imaginative shark awareness campaigns — including sculptures, murals, and protests — to educate the public and inspire them to speak out against the exploitation of sharks. Carolina will also put together a team to lay the foundation for a citizen science initiative working closely with local fishing communities to conduct research and develop sustainable alternative incomes to shark meat.
Carolina is born in Costa Rica and grows up in a coastal area called Cobano.
At age 18, Carolina completes her scuba diving instructor training so she can spend more time in the water with sharks.
While working in the Maldives, Carolina notices the country — which, like Costa Rica, depends on income from wildlife tourism — protects its sharks very well. By contrast, she discovers Costa Rica is one of the largest shark fin exporters in the world and does very little to save sharks from extinction. She decides to go back home to do what she can to help.
By rallying public support, Carolina gets a big chain of 14 supermarkets to agree to stop selling shark meat in Costa Rica.
Carolina creates Unidos Por Los Tiburones, an audiovisual campaign inspired by the fight to protect sharks and intended to educate people and unite national and international organizations.
The Unidos Por Los Tiburones premiere in advance of COP 25 goes viral, attracting national media attention and reaching nearly three million people. Building on this momentum, Carolina holds 109 workshops around Costa Rica for people of all ages, talking about shark science, Unidos Por Los Tiburones’ mission, and how to help by stopping consumption of shark meat and spreading awareness among friends and family.
Together with shark conservationist Randall Arauz and a group of organizations who have been working tirelessly to protect sharks — including CREMA Costa Rica, Fins Attached, Green Wolf, Operation Rich Coast, and Pelagos — Carolina supports the creation of a bill to categorize sharks as wildlife instead of a commercial species. If passed, it would go a long way to stopping shark killings in Costa Rica.
Unidos Por Los Tiburones counts 91 national and international organizations among its partners.
Carolina organizes a protest in the streets of San José, the capital of Costa Rica, where 300 people raise their voices in solidarity with sharks. She volunteers with Fins Attached aboard the Sharkwater vessel, learning from and taking part in diving expeditions and scientific research. Carolina and others explore citizen science opportunities, creating connections with local fishers.
In February, almost 50,000 signatures are delivered by Carolina to the Costa Rican government, calling for an end to the capture and trade of endangered shark species. By March, nearly 120,000 people around the world have signed the Only One petition.
In April, Carolina becomes a Tide Turner.
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