Judge overturns measure controlling shark finning

An administrative judge has frozen temporarily the agreement that requires fishing boats to unload their catch at a public dock in Puntarenas. The rule had been put in place to oversee shark finning.

The action came from the Tribunal Contencioso Administrativo, the court that oversees government actions.

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The ruling came at the request of three firms that deal in shark fins: Marisco Wang,S.A., Porta Portese S.A. and Transportes el Pescador S.A.

Shark finning is controversial because the rest of the carcass usually is just dumped back into the sea.

The Instituto Costarricense de Pesca y Acuacultura entered into an agreement with the Ministerio de Obras Públicas in October that by Dec. 1 all fishing cargo would be unloaded at public docks. The agreement was praised by environmentalists.

The report of the court action came from Programa de Restauración de las Tortugas Marinas, which opposes shark finning.

The environmental group was highly critical.

“We have no way to explain how Judge Rosa Cortes Morales has decided to ignore Articles 211 and 212 of the custom’s law, the resolution of the constitutional court, the
order of the comptrollership and the recommendation of the defender of the inhabitants, all of which mandate the use of public docks by foreign fleets, the only way to defend the public interest,” said Randall Arauz, of the Costa Rican organization Programa de Restauración de las Tortugas Marinas. “It looks like we will keep on being a well known shark finning nation to the eyes of the rest of the world for a long time to come”, denounced Arauz.

The judge issued what are called medidas cautelares, basically an injunction. The case will be argued further, but in this case, citing the extreme urgency, the court decision came without informing the institute, according to the decision.

Officials also want to have compete oversight of the docks to suppress drug smuggling.

In the case of shark finning, Costa Rican laws require that the shark be landed with fin attached. In most cases, only the fin is brought to shore, and that cannot be determined if the catch is landed at a private dock.

The decision came Jan. 24, but there was no notification until Feb. 1, according to the paperwork.

A.M. Costa Rica reported in 2006 that the first quantitative study of sharks harvested for their valuable fins estimates that as few as 26 million and as many as 73 million sharks are killed each year worldwide. This number is three times higher than was reported originally by the United Nations, according to a study published in Ecology Letters.

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

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