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Fishermen Block Costa Rican Port To Protest New Law Banning Shark Finning News Service
November 14, 2008 09:52 EST

SAN JOSE, Costa Rica -- A cruise ship carrying 1,300 passengers that was scheduled to arrive at Costa Rica's Pacific port of Puntarenas had to be diverted to Panama because of a protest by fishermen that left three people arrested and caused an estimated $250,000 in losses, authorities said Thursday.

The detainees, according to a statement by the Security Ministry, were captains of small fishing vessels who barred the entrance of the Coral Princess in a protest over a new law banning shark finning, the controversial process of removing shark fins - often while the animal is still alive - to provide the ingredients for the popular Asian dish of shark fin soup.

Fishermen now must unload the whole shark at docks to comply with the law.

The San Jose daily La Nacion on Thursday reported that the Princess Cruises cruise line sent a protest note to the Costa Rican Tourism Institute over the incident, which, according to National Tourism Chamber President Gonzalo Vargas, could result in as much as $250,000 in losses.

Tourists could have spent that amount on handicrafts made by local artisans, food at restaurants, and guided tours offered by local tourism companies, he said.

During Costa Rica's cruise season, from October to April, some 125 vessels carrying 140,000 passengers are expected to arrive at Costa Rica's Pacific ports and an equal number at Atlantic ports.

A country with just 4.5 million inhabitants, Costa Rica last year received 1.9 million international tourist arrivals and the revenue generated by international tourists reached a historic high of $1.9 billion.

Most of those visitors arrived by plane to enjoy the natural beauty of the Central American country, which is home to 4.5 percent of the planet's biodiversity.