Call to ban threatened shark product exports from Costa Rica

by | Jun 24, 2024

The case is made that competent authorities fail to comply with mandate of the Supreme Court of Justice.

(June 24, 2024 – San José, Costa Rica). Costa Rican lawyer Walter Brenes, of Energy Law Firm, called last Thursday June 20th on the Administrative Contentious Tribune to immediately suspend all exports sourced from threatened shark species that are listed under the Endangered and Threatened Marine Coastal Wildlife List of the National System of Protected Areas (SINAC).

It has already been exactly a year ago since the Supreme Court of Justice, hierarchically above the Administrative Contentious Tribune ordered compliance with the Wildlife Conservation Law (WCL 7317) for the conservation of sharks.  The WCL grants legal protection to wildlife, as well as the strict protection of species that are under vulnerable and critical condition, establishing the duties of the State to effectively comply with the Law and sanction the capture, traffic and commerce of wildlife, particularly species that are listed under SINAC’s threated species list.  This law grants governing body status over threated species to the Ministry of Environment, and ban the exportation of products sourced from species listed under any of the appendixes of the Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES).

The State and SINAC continue to allow the exportation of these products under the alleged governing body of the Costa Rican Fisheries Institute (INCOPESCA) over sharks because they are species of commercial interest (Decrees 4379 MINAE-MAG y 42842-MINAE-MAG).  The First Hall of Appeals of the Supreme Court of Justice however, sentenced that these administrative acts are contrary to the judicial framework and are thus of absolute nullity,” denounced lawyer Brenes.  “The current contempt towards the sentence has resulted in a sustained detriment to the populations of threatened sharks that are exploited in Costa Rica, which is contrary to the Precautionary Principle, established in our Constitution, and to the Principle of Hierarchical Normative, where a decree can never affect a law,” he ensured.

The grave detriment caused is evidenced in the report: Exportation of silky shark (Carcharhinus falciformis) and Thresher shark (Alopiidae) products form Costa Rica, from July to December 2023.  According to the report, from July to December 2023, after the sentence of the Supreme Court of Justice, Costa Rica exported 270 tons of silky shark meat for a value of US$680,000.00, 26.3 tons of silky shark fins for a value of US2,801,000.00, and 2.6 tons of thresher shark fins for a value of US$131,600,000.00.  All these exports were authorized by the Costa Rican Fisheries Institute, which according to the Supreme Court of Justice, lacks any authority in the matter, as these are endangered species of wildlife, officially acknowledged as such by the State.

“We found many irregularities in the official paperwork to authorize the export of threatened shark products from Costa Rica,” denounced Elpis Chávez of CREMA, and the main author of the report.  “CITES export permits signed by INCOPESCA, export permits for hammerhead shark fins in transit, and the existence of over 60 tariff codes assigned to the export of different shark products that do not even require CITES export permits, all of which are contrary to the WCL and the sentence of the Supreme Court of Justice,” she concluded.

“Since 2017 we have tirelessly denounced that the declaration of threatened sharks as commercial species was an illegal act to circumvent the State’s duty to comply with the WCL and thus favor the shark fishing industry, and sure enough, it has already been a year since the Supreme Court of Justice ruled in our favor”, expressed Randall Arauz, of Marine Watch International.  “Costa Rica acts hypocritically when it pretends to lead global marine conservation processes, but at the same time the competent authorities are in contempt of the ruing of the Supreme Court of Justice and they refuse to comply with our own wildlife conservation laws in favor of fishery interests”.

The Administrative Contentious Tribune granted the State 3 days to respond.

For more information:

Randall Arauz
Marine Watch International | +506 8708 8253

Walter Brenes
Energy Law Firm | +506 8995 3068

Elpis Chávez
CREMA | +506 6327 5609