Local fishermen appear involved in shark finning

Guardacostas officer inspects and arranges definned shark carcasses found on board one of the two boats stopped over the weekend.

The Servicio Nacional de Guardacostas has intercepted two boats that appear to be involved in shark finning on the high seas.

The coast guard said it also captured and is bringing to port an Ecuadorian boat originally thought to be operated by drug smugglers. Instead, it carried shark products.

The first encounter with shark finners was Friday when two coast guard boats based in Quepos encountered the “Ariana María” about eight miles offshore. They found a second Quepos-registered boat, the “Capitán Allan” a short time later.

The “Ariana María” had a crew of four and also carried 439 kilos of definned and frozen thresher shark. There also were 14 pieces of gray shark and 986 kilos of shark fins from gray sharks and 11.5 kilos of thresher shark fins, the coast guard said.

Landing sharks without fins attached or just landing the fins alone is illegal. The idea is to make sure the fishermen bring the entire carcass to port instead of just dumping the definned and crippled shark back into the water.

The “Capitán Allan” carried 243 thresher shark fins, the coast guard said.

Fins are lucrative products for Pacific fishermen because the Asian market where they are converted to soup is expanding. However, most shark fishing
is done by foreign commercial rigs larger than the ones brought into Quepos for inspection over the weekend.

Costa Rican environmentalists have waged a long battle against shark finning. Although the law is clear, fishing boat captains and dealers have come up with many ways to duck inspections.

At one time they used a private dock in Puntarenas where their activities could not be viewed by outsiders. That was eventually ruled against the law, and the boats had to land at a public dock.

One boat captain was detained when his craft showed up at the public dock loaded with shark fins.

To avoid local inspection, the Programa de Restauración de Tortugas Marinas, an environmental group, said the fins are now landed in Nicaragua and shipped by truck to Costa Rica. This appears to be legal.

Over the weekend, the organization known as Pretoma criticized Luis Dobles, president of the Instituto Costarricense de Pescas y Acuacultura, for allowing a shark finner to offload legal products in Puntarenas. The organization cited the Tawianese vessel Wai Jai Men 89 that is believed to have carried about 1,000 to 2,000 kilos of shark fins.

The fisheries institute allowed the boat to offload legal products, but Pretoma said that the fins most certainly will be offloaded in Nicaragua and brought back to Costa Rica.

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