High-level post created to defend nation’s oceans and waters

The Chinchilla administration has elevated an environmental warrior of its own to the post of vice minister.

He is José Lino Chaves López, who headed the Tribunal Ambiental Administrativo. That is the agency that made life difficult for developers and builders.

Chaves has been named to the new position of vice minister in charge of Mares y Agua, oceans and water. The post is in the Ministerio de Ambiente y Energía.

The appointment may be connected to the Paul Watson case. He is the environmental crusader who awaits extradition in Germany to face a charge here. Watson is a strong opponent of shark finning, and that practice got a mention in a statement about Chaves. His job is to prohibit and punish shark finning and to raise the public consciousness about rivers, mangroves and other environmental areas.

Officials noted that the country had waters 10 times the size of dry land.

The new policies of the vice minister will be to save species in danger of extinction and to elevate to 10 percent the protected area of the sea.

He also is to concern himself with the estimated 7,000 illegal
wells that exist in the country, officials said.

Chaves is no stranger to mangroves. He aggressively targeted those who invade mangroves in sweeps that he engineered mainly in coastal areas. The tribunal he headed has the power to halt projects and to assess fines.

The Ministerio de Gobernación, Policía y Seguridad Pública announced earlier this week that coast guard officers had detained three fishermen who were illegally shark finning. That is they caught the fish, cut off the fins and then threw the living animal back into the water to die. The fins become expensive soup in China.

By contrast, Puntarenas is a center of the shark finning trade, although now the fins are brought in from Nicaragua by truck.

The Watson case began when his “Ocean Warrior,” operated by his Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, had an encounter with Costa Rican shark fishermen in Guatemalan waters. The “Ocean Warrior” crew sprayed the fishermen with water and the two vessels bumped.

Watson, an international environmental figure, has been critical of Costa Rica’s shark-finning policies both then and now. The extradition request to face what editors consider to be a bogus charge, have directed world attention on Costa Rica. The encounter was filmed and became part of the award-winning documentary “Sharkwater.”

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