Environmental group says private docks to be restricted

An environmental organization said it has been told that the central government will require foreign fishing boats to unload their catches at public docks instead of private ones.

This is a key element in the fight against illegal fishing as well as other crimes. But for years and contrary to Costa Rican law, fishing boats have been using private docks in Puntarenas.

The organization is Programa de Restauración de la Tortugas Marinas or PRETOMA. The organization is mainly interested in the shark finning operations. With private docks, fishing boats did not have to abide by the law that says sharks must be landed with their fins intact. There is an economic motivation to cut off the fin at sea and toss the disabled shark back in the sea to die.

Randall Arauz, president of the non-profit group, said that he was not totally impressed. He has heard the same promise, first in 2004 and then in 2007. But the private docks remained open.

This time it was the minister of Agricultura y Ganadería, Gloria Abrahan Peralta, who said the private docks would be closed to foreign-flagged vessels as of Dec. 1. She said she had been in contact with commercial fishing operators.

The Sala IV constitutional court and the Contraloría de la Repúbica have been calling for this action for years.

“Not only shark finning is facilitated by leaving the public interest unprotected, so is drug trafficking and slave running, as has been duly exposed by the national press,” said the organization.

“This measure would mean the government would finally be abiding by Articles 211 y 212 of Costa Rica’s Customs Law, which mandate the use of public infrastructure for the importation of products,” said the organization in a release. It said it would keep watch to see what happens.

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