Costa Rican Supreme Court says Shark Policies have been Unconstitutional for Years

by | Aug 24, 2006

Costa Rican Supreme Court says Shark Policies have been Unconstitutional for Years

Says shark fishing policies have put shark populations at grave risk

August 24, 2006 – San Jose, Costa Rica 
The Costa Rican Supreme Court has ordered the immediate halt of all landings of shark products at private docks, unless they are equipped with public installations and ideal conditions to exert controls and protect the public interest.  Likewise, the Court confirmed that the National Fishery Department (INCOPESCA), the Customs Department and the Ministry of Public Works and Transportation (MOPT), have abdicated their constitutional duties by implementing policies which have endangered shark populations.  While not a defendant in the case, the Ministry of Environment was ordered to guarantee compliance with environmental legislation at the private docks as well.
(Court ruling:

The case was filed 2.5 years ago by PRETOMA, because national customs law states that foreign vessels must land at public docks, to ensure the protection of the public interest.  Yet since the first foreign vessels arrived to Puntarenas in 1998, the Costa Rican government has been allowing them to land at private docks, facilitating shark finning and promoting overfishing.  The Court had announced it ruled in favor of PRETOMA in February of 2006, and the full resolution was issued now in August.

The argument long given by INCOPESCA, Customs and MOPT is that state infrastructure does not exist where foreign shark vessels can land.  Therefore, they’ve been allowing foreign vessels to land thousands of tons of shark products at private docks, where PRETOMA has denounced the massive illegal landings of shark fins.  Even if state infrastructure didn’t exist, the Court also nullifies the entities’ argument: “the lack of resources is no excuse for such institutions to avoid complying with the law.  A ‘material impossibility’ does not justify indifference on behalf of public authorities in the application of their elemental obligations.”  According to the Court, “the authorities do not have the liberty to authorize landings at sites where there are no conditions for controls to be efficient,” and “inspections in place have been illegitimate because they are insufficient and inefficient.”

“We should point out that a perfectly good public dock has existed for years in Golfito, but oddly the State disregards its existence,” explains Jorge Ballestero, Vice-President of PRETOMA.  “So the argument that State infrastructure is lacking simply doesn’t hold water.” Photos of the dock: 

“The Court ruling shows that Costa Rican shark fishing policies over the last years have been tailored to meet foreign shark fin interests,” confirmed Randall Arauz, President of PRETOMA.  “The authorities seem to be dragging their feet to comply with this ruling, because of which I call on President Oscar Arias to end Costa Rica’s reputation as a country which hands over resources to foreign interests, simply by ordering his Ministers to comply immediately with the ruling of the Court and urge protection of regional marine resources.”

Photos of sharks (cite Rob Stewart):

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

PRETOMA (Programa Restauración de Tortugas Marinas) is a Costa Rican non-profit, non-governmental, marine conservation organization that works to promote sustainable fisheries and protect sea turtles, sharks and marine biodiversity.  PRETOMA is a member of the IUCN (International Union for the Conservation of Nature), WSPA (World Society for the Protection of Animals) and FECON (Costa Rican Conservation Federation).

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