Environmentalist says shark finners chased, threatened him

The Programa de Restauración de Tortugas Marinas provided this photo of shark fins drying in the sun. This is just part of the fins that were being dried in this location. Environmentalists say that sharks are an important predator in the oceans and that mass killings disturb the natural balance

An environmentalist who is an opponent of shark finning said he was approached by a mob, threatened and then had a run-in with police who responded.

The man is Jorge Ballestero, and the report is being circulated by the Programa de Restauración de Tortugas Marinas, an organization that also has an interest in stopping shark finning.

Ballestero said he was checking out a report of a great quantity of shark fins being dried at a dock on the east side of the Puntarenas municipal market. He said there did not appear to be any regard for health and no operation permits.

He said when he tried to take video of the shark fins he was approached by a mob and was forced to flee into the market. He said he was pushed, threatened and told to give up his camera.

Policemen in a passing car intervened, Ballestero said, but “incredibly, the officers sided with the aggressors and told him to present his ID and explain what he was doing in the area,” said the organization in a press release.

“Incredibly, the police treated me like I was the perpetrator,” said Ballestero. “We only ask that the law be
respected, one that’s based on the best scientific information available to foment the conservation and sustainable use of our marine resources, and we will never accept these aggressions and abuses against our work to get shark finners to comply with the public’s interest.”

The Programa de Restauración de Tortugas Marinas provided photos it said were taken by another person the day before.

“Recently, the famous chef Gordon Ramsay from the United Kingdom suffered a similar attack in Puntarenas while trying to document shark finning activities at a private dock,” said Randall Arauz a principal in the Programa de Restauración de Tortugas Marinas. “The message is clear – if you approach a dock with your camera in Puntarenas where shark finning happens, it’s likely you’ll be attacked and your camera violently taken from you.”

Shark finning is removing the dorsal and other fins from sharks for use in the Asian markets.

Environmentalists say that many times the shark, relieved of its fins, is dumped back into the ocean to die.

Costa Rica has a number of regulations related to the docking and handling of fish and fish products. Shark finners seem to be able to avoid most of the rules.

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