After much controversy and complaints by environmentalists, the Ministry of Environment and Energy (MINAE) announced today that they will no longer issue permits for the export of shark fins until they have developed a legal document that ensures that the procurement of the product does not seriously harm the species.

The National System of Area Conservation (SINAC), a subdivision of MINAE, will not process any more export permits for hammerhead shark fins, a species considered endangered and protected by the Costa Rica convention of International Trade in Endangered Species of Flora and Fauna (CITES).

This decision comes a few days after environmentalists pointed out that the government was violating CITES when two shipments of hammerhead fins were allowed to leave the country for Hong Kong.

SINAC is the governing body responsible for approving such permits. They claim that it was case of “bycatch” in which the sharks were captured through other fishing activities and took into account the socio-economic benefits for fishermen along the Pacific coast.

Although hammerheads are included in CITES, countries can approve the export of its fin, provided that a regulated government analysis determines that it has not affected the population of the species.

This document, called non-detriment findings, still needs to be developed in Costa Rica.

Some environmental groups have claimed that the shark fin export business generates about $45 million annually for Costa Rica.

However, in Costa Rica, the practice of “finning”, which consists of cutting the shark’s fins and throwing the rest of the animal’s body into the sea, is prohibited.

The fins are incredibly popular in Asian markets for their alleged aphrodisiac and healing qualities.