Bycatch of hammerhead sharks will continue in Costa Rica under the responsibility of the fishers.

by | May 8, 2024

Contentious Administrative Court dismisses the request for a precautionary measure to halt the allowance of hammerhead shark bycatch, contrary to a Supreme Court of Justice ruling.

(San José, Costa Rica – May 8, 2024). The bycatch of critically endangered hammerhead sharks will continue in Costa Rica, regulated by the fishers themselves who are now obligated to release all specimens caught, allegedly contributing to their conservation. This was the decision taken today by the Contentious Administrative Court, which dismissed a request for a precautionary measure filed by lawyer Walter Brenes of ELAWF Legal, which sought to stop all extraction of hammerhead sharks, including bycatch, as ruled by the First Hall of Appeals of the Supreme Court of Justice last June 21 (Exp: 17-008322-1027-CA Res. 001299-A-S1-2023).

Pesca Accidental Tiburón Martillo

“Allowing the bycatch of critically endangered hammerhead sharks, and that the activity be policed by the fishers themselves, is simply a recipe for extinction, and just another contradiction of the Contentious Court”

Lawyer Brenes’s request implies the abolishment of articles 2 and 3 of Executive Decree Decreto Ejecutivo 43.900-MAG-MINAE “Ban on the Catch, On Board Retention, Tran shipping, Landing, Storing and Commercialization of Products and Subproducts of Hammerhead Sharks (La Gaceta 37, February 28, 2023)”, because they both allow for the bycatch of hammerhead sharks, contrary to the aforementioned ruling of the Supreme Court of Justice, which mandates its eradication. As part of this process the State has been granted 30 days to respond to the request, but lawyer Brenes’s intention was for the Court to embrace the precautionary measure and immediately suspend the bycatch of Critically Endangered hammerhead sharks, due to the damage caused.

In its deliberations, the Contentious Court expressed concern over the conservation status of hammerhead sharks and exhorted the State to comply with effective measures to attain their effective conservation, but then it contradicts itself by considering that the suspension of Articles 2 and 3 of Executive Decree 43.900 was not ideal and could create adverse effects.

“The Supreme Court of Justice’s ruling is quite clear, in that the bycatch of hammerhead sharks has caused detriment to the species, and its allowance annuls the effectivity of other conservation tools, such as the creation of marine protected areas,” explained Randall Arauz, of Marine Watch International. “Furthermore, releasing hammerhead sharks lacks any conservation value whatsoever, as post hooking mortality is very high for this particular species, identified as one of the most vulnerable species to longlines,” added Arauz. “Allowing the bycatch of critically endangered hammerhead sharks, and that the activity be policed by the fishers themselves, is simply a recipe for extinction, and just another contradiction of the Contentious Court”, denounced Arauz.

“A clear contradiction exists, as the Contentious Court accepts the precarious conservation status of hammerhead sharks as well as the need to adopted effective conservation measures, but then it denies that one of the main threats for the survival of hammerhead sharks is their incidental catch, as was duly acknowledged by the Supreme Court of Justice”, explained Brenes. “INCOPESCA requested the Supreme Court of Justice to clarify exactly what was meant by the mandate to ban the bycatch of hammerhead shark under the claim that it was impossible to comply with, yet the request was dismissed last July 27 (Exp: 17-008322-1027-CA Res. 001299-A-S1-2023) as the Supreme Court of Justice considered that the necessary methods to comply with the protection and safeguarding of sharks in Costa Rica had already been discussed”, informed Brenes. “The conservation status of hammerhead sharks could improve under compliance with the Law of Wildlife Conservation and the Law of Biodiversity, but sadly, this in just another aspect in which the Cota Rican State has decided to ignore the ruling of the Supreme Court of Justice.”

On behalf of the Endangered Marine Species Rescue Center of Costa Rica (CREMA), I call upon the authorities of the Ministry of Environment and the Costa Rican Fisheries Institute to fully abide by the ruling of the Supreme Court of Justice, particularly the absolute nullification of the administrative act that declared threatened sharks as commercial species,” expressed Daniel Arauz, Executive Director of CREMA. “If we must part from the premise that to protect threatened sharks the State must disobey judicial rulings, we can’t expect anything more than additional detriment and eventual extinction,” denounced Arauz.

For more information:

Daniel Arauz
Executive Director
CREMA
darauz@cremacr.org | +506 8328-1473

Walter Brenes
Founding Member
ELAWF Legal
wbrenes@elawf.com | +506 8995-3068

Randall Arauz
Marine Conservation Policy Director
Marine Watch International (Costa Rica)
rarauz@marinewatch.org | +506 8708-8253