Shark-fining suspects detained by Guardacostas

Ministerio de Gobernación, Policía y Seguridad Pública photos One of the confiscated shark fins.

With Sea Shepherd’s Paul Watson directing world attention to Costa Rica, the Servicio Nacional de Guardacostas has detained three persons who were 10 nautical miles offshore in possession of shark fins.

The Ministerio de Gobernación, Policía y Seguridad Pública said the coast guard boat “Juan Mora” was on patrol against drug smuggling and illegal fishing when the crew encountered the “Elizabeth X.” Upon inspection, the coast guard crew members found 58 shark fins. According to Costa Rican law, fins should not be separated from the shark carcass. That is a rule to prevent the usual practice of cutting the fins from a shark and putting the helpless creature back in the water to die.

The 'Elizabeth X" in port.

Shark meat has little value but the fins are prized by Chinese.

The location was southeast of Punta Banco in extreme southwest Costa Rica, said the ministry.

The penalty for having shark fins at sea without the accompanying carcass is a fine. Those who bring fins to shore without the carcass face a possible jail term. Puntarenas is a center of shark fin processing.

Watson is a crusader against shark finning as well as hunting whales. He is in legal trouble in Costa Rica because his boat, “Ocean Warrior,” collided with a Costa Rican shark fishing boat in Guatemalan waters in 2002.

He is the founder of the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, a group that makes life difficult for the Japanese whaling fleet.

Watson is held in high regard by many environmentalists, but Costa Rica is seeking his extradition from Germany to face allegations that the encounter damaged the shark fishing boat and injured some of the crew.

In a YouTube video posted last week, Watson insisted that no one was injured and that there was no damage during the high seas confrontation 10 years ago. He also said that he twice presented evidence to judicial officials in Puntarenas and that the case against him is the result of yet another legal proceeding. The encounter with the fishing boat was filmed and became part of the

“Sharkwater” award-winning film.

Watson and his supporters are trying to convince German officials not to honor the extradition request. Watson claims his life is in danger if he were to be jailed in Costa Rica. He also has pointed out correctly that he might be in jail for a year or more until the case is resolved. He said he and his legal advisers were confident that they would win a case in Costa Rica.

He dismissed the notion that a shark should be slaughtered so someone in China could have soup.

Costa Rican officials have not been aggressive in trying to prosecute shark finning, and the “Elizabeth X” may be one of a small number of boats that have been involved in coast guard action.

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