Sea Shepherd says shark-finning decree is toothless

Casa Presdiencial photo
President outlines the scope of her decree.

The Sea Shepherd Conservation society has come out with a scathing critique of President Laura Chinchilla’s decree last week on shark fins.

The shark-finning ban is toothless and a largely symbolic gesture rather than a true commitment to sharks and their environment, said the environmental organization.

The statement Monday echos similar concerns in Costa Rica where opponents of shark finning wonder how the decree will be enforced.

“Sea Shepherd is not buying it,” says Julie Andersen, Sea Shepherd’s director of shark campaigns in a release. “The supposed ban is smoke and mirrors by President Laura Chinchilla. Costa Rica is simply trying to do damage control for all the attention focused on shark-finning since it issued a warrant for the arrest of our founder Captain Paul Watson in May of this year,” she said

The organization argued if President Chinchilla were genuine in her desire to ban shark-finning, she would also ban the trade, possession and sale of shark fin as has been done in a handful of other forward-thinking nations. It added:

If President Chinchilla were genuine, she would ban shark fishing in its entirety — a demand for shark meat has been created that provides a very real loophole for shark fishermen to exploit.

If President Chinchilla were genuine, she’d ensure that Cocos Island was adequately protected and those protections enforced, to prevent illegal shark fishing.

If President Chinchilla were genuine, she’d drop the bogus charges against marine conservationist and Sea Shepherd president and founder Captain Paul Watson and stop siding with the shark fin mafia.

If President Chinchilla were genuine, she would have enacted legislation and enforcement to protect sharks before their numbers were down by up to 90 percent. Instead, in 2011, she allowed 400,000 sharks to be slaughtered and permitted the export of some 30 tons of shark fins, permitting private docks belonging to foreign interests to operate in violation of the country’s policies.

Sea Shepherd said that the Isla del Cocos, a U.N. World Heritage Site and one of the most important shark aggregation centers in the world, is filled with dozens of fishing boats illegally laying longlines.

By enacting this toothless ban, President Chinchilla is simply trying to appease the tourist industry by creating the illusion she is getting tough on the shark fin industry, said the organization, adding:

Shark fins are big business in Costa Rica. Indeed, one of the reasons there has been very little outcry from the shark fishing industry over this ban is because they know it will continue to be business as usual. Legislation and marine protected areas are only as good as the political will and available funds required to enforce them. Sadly, history proves the protection of Costa Rican waters is under-funded and/or managed by corrupt officials who are quick to turn a blind eye to what is really going on in their waters and have no intention of enforcing local laws.

The organization also said that if Costa Rica is really serious about saving sharks, the government should ban the trade, possession and sale of all shark fin; institute an immediate ban on shark fishing, as was done in nearby Honduras; step up enforcement; demonstrate some real conservation efforts at Cocos Island; tally up some actual arrests and seizures, and drop the outlandish charges against Captain Paul Watson.

The people of Costa Rica want shark finning to stop, said Sea Shepherd.

President Chinchilla must understand that she is not fooling anyone with this announcement and that conservationists, park rangers, members of the coast guard, politicians, and members of the public in Costa Rica will continue to report the truth, it said.

And the truth is that Costa Rica remains one of the most environmentally destructive and shark-destroying countries in the world, the organization added.

Watson is the environmentalist who was detained in Germany at the request of Costa Rica. Sea Shepherd and Watson argued that Costa Rica was only serving as a proxy for Japan, a country that seeks to prosecute Watson for the activities of Sea Shepherd in hampering the country’s whaling fleet in the Southern Ocean. Watson left Germany and is not a fugitive.

The decree by Ms. Chinchilla last week bans the importation of shark fins. Commercial shark-finning already was illegal in Costa Rica, but the practice continues. Small-scale fishing for shark also is permitted.

Puntarenas hosts major wholesalers of shark fins, and after Costa Rica cracked down on the docking of shark fishing boats, the crafts unloaded in Nicaragua and the fins were trucked to Costa Rica

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