Costa Rican Attorney General orders Fishery Dept. to again halt shark finning policy

by | Jan 27, 2006

• • • PRESS RELEASE • • •

Costa Rican Attorney General orders Fishery Dept. to again halt shark finning policy

January 27, 2006 – San Jose, Costa Rica  
The Attorney General of Costa Rica ruled on January 25, that article 40 of the Costa Rican Fishery Law requires all shark fins to be landed attached “in natural form”, and not “tied on”, as the Costa Rican Fishery Institute INCOPESCA had been allowing for 10 months.  This ruling seconds a previous ruling by the Attorney General on July 28, 2005, also calling for an end to the fins “tied on” policy, which INCOPESCA has refused to comply with.  

The text of the Fishery Law states sharks must be landed with their respective fins attached, a measure widely acknowledged as the simplest and most efficient way to enforce a shark finning ban.  However, when the law was passed in April of 2005, those word “fins attached” immediately became hotly disputed, as INCOPESCA chose to interpret “respective fins attached” to mean “tied on” or “taped on”, which undermines efficient compliance with a shark finning ban.

National and international shark experts and conservation groups immediately pointed out that tying fins on opens many loopholes to permit shark finning.  

For example, mulitple extra fins could easily be tied onto each shark body, requiring inspectors to count every fin – a tedious, unnecessary and time consuming task unlikely to be performed, given that some foreign vessels land 6500 sharks in one landing.

Allowing fins to be tied on also makes at sea inspections impossible; i.e., when fins are separate from bodies before being tied, an inspector would have no way of knowing if the number of fins correctly corresponds to the number of bodies.

Furthermore, the letter of the law mandates sharks to be landed with their “respective” fins attached.  Once fins are completely removed and subsequently tied on, there is no way to guarantee that the fins tied on are in fact the respective fins.  This not only makes the application of the law impossible, it also makes species identification impossible, data vital for assessing shark populations and creating effective management and conservation programs.  

“There is a long history here of INCOPESCA doing everything possible to undermine simple national laws in order to support foreign, mostly Taiwanese vessels landing shark fins in Costa Rica, from ignoring the previous Attorney General ruling, to the manipulation of science to create capricious management policies,” states Randall Arauz, President of PRETOMA, a Costa Rican NGO that has been denouncing this situation for 4 years.  “The ruling by the Attorney General is one step in the right direction, but there’s plenty more to do in order to make sure national laws related to shark finning are enforced in Costa Rica.”  

CONTACT: Randall Arauz, President PRETOMA
TEL:  +(506) 241-5227
FAX:  +(506) 236-6017

PRETOMA (Programa Restauraci