Image via WikipediaThe law in Costa Rica states that shark may only be landed at public docks....to avoid the barbaric and lucrative practice of finning the shark alive at sea and leaving it to drown in agony.
The public docks at Puntarenas, on the Pacific coast, centre of this trade, are under the jurisdiction of the Costa Rican Institute for Fisheries and Aquaculture (Instituto Costarricense de Pesca y Aquacultura).
Legal action has been taken by the owners of three private docks, now no longer legally able to acccept shark landings, Mariscos Wang S.A., Porta Portese S.A. and Transportes el Pescador S.A., who claim that there is a lack of adequate refrigeration facilities at the public dock and that a ban on using private docks is causing their enterprises irreparable damage..
Environmentalists are of the view that if boats are allowed to use the private docks....and all the unlicensed nooks and crannies currently unsupervised....then they will be able to escape their legal obligations and the finning at sea will continue unabated.
The case was heard in the administrative courts (Tribunal Contencioso Administrativo) by Judge Rosa Maria Cortes Morales, who granted a temporary injunction exempting fishing craft from the obligation to use the public docks and put the Fisheries Institute on notice of the case.
In my view it is quite improper to criticise the judge. She has an obligation to consider the case brought by the plaintiffs.
It would have been quite proper to criticise the Fisheries Institute if they had not registered an objection and filed for a full hearing.....the ban on shark finning would then be just a mockery.
They have so filed.
But while the case wends its way through the courts, unsupervised landings continue.
Given the demand for shark fins in the Asian market and given the close involvement of first Taiwan and now China with the Costa Rican government a cynic would say that the legislation has no chance whatsoever of being effectively put into action......if one case fails another will be started to keep the trade in being.
And while we are all raising our hands in horror at what goes on in developing countries, just take a look at the European Union, under whose regulations shark finning is banned......unless you have a permit.
And there are permits aplenty.
So while I hope you will contact Costa Rican embassies and firms doing business with Costa Rica...notably in the tourism sector...to express your wish that the country will take proper steps to control this disgusting trade I also hope that you will contact the Commission of the European Union who are taking comments on the question of finning permits until the end of this month.
If you live in Europe, shake up your Member of the European Parliament.....it's about time these sharks did something to help their brothers.