Report Confirms Sharks Disappearing off Costa Rica

by | Jun 7, 2005

• • • PRESS RELEASE • • •

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

Report Confirms Sharks Disappearing off Costa Rica

June 7, 2005 – San Jose, Costa Rica
According to a report released June 3, 2005 by the government of Japan at the Ninth Session of the Indian Ocean Tuna Commission (IOTC), 120 Taiwanese vessels were recently conducting shark-finning operations offshore Costa Rica, Honduras and Mexico, but the abundance of shark resources in the region declined rapidly.  As a result, these Taiwanese shark finners shifted their operations to offshore Pakistan and India in the Indian Ocean in 2004.  However, the operations in these areas came to an end because of tight surveillance activities by Navies and Coast Guards of these coastal countries.  The vessels then moved to the east coast of Africa where controls are insufficient, and these vessels are even poaching in the territorial waters of coastal countries, sometimes within three or four miles from the coastline.

This report confirms what PRETOMA and many other national and international organizations, as well as national fishermen, have been saying for years; that Taiwanese shark finning vessels operating in the region are depleting shark stocks.
The Japan report also demonstrates that Taiwanese shark finners not only seek out the few areas where sharks still remain, but also where fisheries controls are scarce or non-existent, in order to maintain the profitability of the operation.

Costa Rica is a prime example of how shark finners benefit from scarce or non-existent controls.  The Costa Rican Customs Department does not enforce Articles 211 and 212 of the Customs Law, which mandate all landings by foreign vessels must occur at public docks.  Customs instead allows these vessels to land at private docks where, due to their private nature, Coast Guard officers do not have free access to inspect.  Currently 15 to 30 international longline vessels, mainly Taiwanese, continue to land shark fins and other fishery products illegally at private docks each month.  By ignoring its own law and allowing the use of private docks, Customs facilitates Taiwanese vessels landing shark fins.

“It’s no wonder that many Taiwanese vessels continue to land shark fins in Costa Rica,” states Randall Arauz, President of PRETOMA.  “The Costa Rican Customs and National Fisheries Institute (INCOPESCA) have a history of not enforcing controls against shark finning.  All Costa Rica needs to do in order to truly halt shark finning is to enforce existing Customs laws and close all loopholes in other regulations.  Unfortunately, Customs and INCOPESCA, rather than enforce current laws, prefer to create loopholes wherever possible,” explains Arauz.

“For one month, between November and December of 2004, Customs finally applied the law and ordered foreign vessels to land at public docks,” notes Jorge Ballestero, Vice President of PRETOMA.  “However, the Taiwanese shark finning interests quickly complained, the Customs Director was immediately replaced, and by January 2005 Taiwanese vessels were landing at private docks once again.  Taiwanese shark finning interests dictate Costa Rican fishery policy, and as long as they are allowed to land at private docks in violation of our Customs Law, not even the positive measures against shark finning in the new Fishery Law will be applicable, causing further damage to already depleted shark populations.”

In addition to the IOTC report ( various other studies show that sharks are disappearing from the region and this is having drastic effects on local fisheries: 
• A report by PRETOMA shows relative abundance of sharks dropped 60% between 1991 and 2001.
• Global research shows shark populations have declined globally 90% during the last 50 years (
• Data from 1994 shows that Costa Rican vessels were using 0.86 liters of fuel to catch one kilo of product.  By 2003 that number had more than doubled to 1.99 liters of fuel to catch one kilo of product (source: INCOPESCA).

PRETOMA (Programa Restauraci