Underwatertimes.com News Service - August 1, 2011 18:44 EST

The following is a reprint of "Shark Finning Continues", an editorial by Randall Arauz, President of PRETOMA, which appeared in Periódico La Nación, Costa Rica. August 1, 2011. Op-Ed Section.

"Shark finning is prohibited in Costa Rica and there is no reason to be concerned about it", said INCOPESCA's [Costa Rican Institute of Fishing and Aquaculture] President, Jorge Dobles, during a hearing with the Legislative Assembly's Environmental Commission on Thursday, July 21st. This comment lead to liberation party congressman Alfonso Pérez's remark to the Commission, questioning the existence of organizations that fight against shark finning, and denouncing massive donations to fight against an industry that doesn't even exist.

My personal opinion is that the international fishing fleet continues to illegally commercialize shark fins. Since the closure of the private docks to the landing of foreign fleets as of December 1st, 2010, we've documented how INCOPESCA has used every trick in the book conceivable to protect the shark finning industry's private interests in Puntarenas. Regrettably, it's once again the same old song and dance.

First, INCOPESCA allowed foreign vessels to sidestep fishery's controls by docking at private docks before landing at the public dock. This was only stopped when a group of Puntarenas fisher folk threatened to block the arrival of a cruise ship if INCOPESCA didn't mandate foreign vessels to land their entire cargo at public docks before continuing on to their private facilities. The Taiwanese captain of the first Belize flagged vessel to land its cargo under these conditions was recently found guilty and fined by the court system for having landed 2,000 Kg of finless shark carcasses. This exposed a harsh reality: the privacy conditions that foreign fleet's demand and that INCOPESCA vehemently defends since 1998, creates the perfect scenario for shark finning in this country, regardless of the presence, or not, of fishery inspectors.

Since this incident, we've seen how the foreign fleet has now moved to Nicaraguan Pacific ports, where shark fins are loaded into Costa Rican trucks and imported into our nation. The transshipping of fins inside the Exclusive Economic Zone has also been well documented. The most recent ploy is "partial landings" at public docks. Certainly, fisheries products are landed at the private dock, but the shark cargo is immediately moved to private dock facilities, where it's weighed and the fins separated from the carcasses.

Having said this, isn't it relevant to the protection of the public interest to have all imported products weighed and the separation of fins done within the boundaries of public infrastructure? INCOPESCA assures us that we have nothing to worry about because everything that goes on inside the private docks in done under close inspector supervision. Yes, but these are the same useless inspectors that for 13 years didn't confiscate a single shark fin from these private docks!

In closing, Mr. Luis Dobles' comment isn't surprising given he answers to INCOPESCA's board of directors, which in turn protects the interests of the foreign "shark finning" fleet. What is somewhat surprising is congressman Pérez's remark, as due to his investiture, he can't claim to ignore this national reality. He must read the papers, watch the news, or at least listen to the radio. Could it be that he supports this nefarious industry? I'd like to extend an offer to the Environmental Commission to help in any way it sees fit.