Costa Rican Policy Permitting Shark Finning Overturned

by | Aug 3, 2005

• • • PRESS RELEASE • • •

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

Costa Rican Policy Permitting Shark Finning Overturned

August 3, 2005 – San Jose, Costa Rica
On July 28, 2005 the Constitutional Authority of Costa Rica ruled that shark fins must be landed with their fins attached in natural form, overturning the policy of the National Fishery Institute (INCOPESCA) which had allowed shark fins to be landed tied on to shark bodies. 

The Costa Rican Fishery Law, approved on April 25, 2005, prohibits shark finning and requires shark fins to be landed attached to bodies.  However, INCOPESCA, decided in May, 2005 to define “attached” as “tied on”.  As was quickly pointed out by national and international shark experts, including in a declaration by the IUCN, allowing fins to be tied on facilitates shark finning given that extra fins can very easily be tied on to each body.  Furthermore, tying fins on makes inspections at sea or during landings virtually impossible.  Biologists also pointed out that when fins come tied on one cannot guarantee accurate identification of species, data which is vital for creation of shark management and conservation policies.

In June, the Costa Rican Ministry of Environment (MINAE) subsequently requested that the Constitutional Authority rule on the definition of the phrase “attached to bodies”.

“PRETOMA, Costa Rican citizens as well as biologists and shark researchers in the campaign against foreign vessels practicing shark finning applaud the constant efforts of MINAE to resolve this issue,” said Randall Arauz, President of PRETOMA.

The Constitutional Authority states in its ruling: “The term ‘fins attached to bodies’ must be understood to mean attached in natural form.” 
“Allowing fins to be tied on was just part of INCOPESCA’s longstanding pattern of promoting foreign, notably Taiwanese, shark fin interests,” said Randall Arauz, President of PRETOMA.  “During the last four years INCOPESCA has either failed to apply regulations against shark finning or worked to create loopholes to facilitate shark finning by foreign vessels.  INCOPESCA shark fishery policies have been criticized by Costa Rican citizens, biologists and fishermen as well as dozens of marine conservation organizations from around the world, and have sadly given our nation the reputation as one that promotes foreign shark finning operations.”

“Just like the passage of the new Fishery Law, this ruling by the Constitutional Authority is indeed a positive step for controlling foreign vessels that land shark fins in Costa Rica,” states Noah Anderson of PRETOMA.  “Unfortunately, even these positive steps are a moot point while foreign vessels continue to land at private docks.  Only INCOPESCA has access to inspect landings at the private docks and INCOPESCA’s record raises serious questions as to whether their objective is to control foreign shark vessels or facilitate shark finning.  Costa Rican law actually states foreign vessels must land at public docks where the Coast Guard has free access and laws can be enforced.  Until INCOPESCA orders foreign vessels to land at public docks as the law requires, there will be a loophole open for foreign vessels to circumvent any law and practice shark finning.”

PRETOMA (Programa Restauraci