The Costa Rica News (TCRN) – The shark population is decreasing at an alarming rate due to “shark finning”, which is illegal in Costa Rica, but widely practiced.

Shark fins have been big business in Costa Rica for many years and in recent years authorities have made significant efforts to stop shark fin poaching.
Legal loopholes and lack of protection policies are identified as the main factors favoring the illegal practice of “finning” (cutting fins) of sharks in Costa Rica, which occupies the third place as an exporter of shark fins , after Taiwan and Spain.

“Shark Finning” is an ancient practice that consists on fishing sharks and cutting their fins in order to sell them, whereas the rest of the animal’s body is thrown away.

According to Alvaro Morales Ramirez, director of the Center for Research on Marine Sciences and Limnology (CIMAR in Spanish) at the University of Costa Rica (UCR), this practice is the main cause of the disappearance of sharks, a species now included in the list of endangered organisms.

Morales participated in a discussion on the subject organized by the Environmental Legal Office of the Faculty of Law, where Viviana Gutierrez Delgado – MarViva Foundation lawyer – also participated.

The biologist stated that shark fisheries are a problem worldwide and that they carry responsibility for the decline of this species. He indicated that there are no policies for control of finning nor for conservation. It is estimated that annually 200,000 tons of shark are discarded.

VEDA REQUEST

Morales pointed out that recently the governmental authorities were asked to temporarily establish a total or partial ban on shark fishing until the results of scientific studies on the populations of species of sharks in Costa Rica are known.

However, the Costa Rican Board of Fishing and Aquaculture (INCOPESCA in Spanish) rejected the request, after presenting technical and scientific arguments.

The report on the subject was presented to the community of Puntarenas at the Pacific Headquarters of the UCR, in the presence of Luis Gerardo Fallas Acosta, defender of the inhabitants.

He stated: “It is important to establish a complete ban on holding, storage, trading and transport of shark fins at the sea or any unauthorized place”.
The report suggests the need for restructuring INCOPESCA, starting by reorganizing its board of directors, since it is not fulfilling its role: to defend marine resources.

In addition, the report also points out that the Marine National Commission has not clearly established measures against finning, which leaves the issue at the expense of a whole political debate.

“Finning, besides being a cruel practice against the animal, has serious economic and environmental implications”, adds the article.

As regards the economic factor, finning means a waste of marine and coastal resources and the loss of a great source of protein, which affects food administration.

Regarding the environmental aspect, it poses a serious threat to the sustainability of these species and their habitat, as well as to the biodiversity in general, due to the risk of losing of species.

The CIMAR director referred to the importance of protecting sites of reproduction of sharks, such as Térraba-Sierpe Wetland, the Gulf of Nicoya, Quepos and Manuel Antonio, on the Pacific coast.

UNLAWFUL PRACTICE

In Costa Rica, the legislation allows shark fishing, but not solely for their fins. The MarViva spokeswoman explained that one of the gaps in this field is that only fishing is regulated, while other steps of the finning process are not considered, such as trading, labeling, exporting and importing fins.

The Fisheries and Aquaculture Law, the main legislation in this field, establishes a penalty of six months to two years of prison for the discarding of fins without their body in order to sell or market them.

Tracy Vargas

The Costa Rica News (TCRN)
San Jose Costa Rica

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