San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Gov’t Attorney Clarifies Fishing Law – Again

For the fourth time in the past 12 months, the Government Attorney’s Office has declared that sharks must be unloaded at the country’s docks with their fins naturally attached to their bodies.

The Costa Rican Fisheries Institute (INCOPESCA), the government agency charged with enforcing the country’s Fishing Law, has ignored the Government Attorney’s previous rulings, according to a statement from the Marine Turtle Restoration Program (PRETOMA).

One of them, addressed to former Environment Minister Carlos Manuel Rodríguez, was issued last July and another, addressed to INCOPESCA, in December 2005 (TT, Dec. 23, 2005).

INCOPESCA appealed the Government Attorney’s Office third ruling in January 2006 (TT, Feb. 17), which led to this latest ruling, according to the PRETOMA statement.

The Fishing Law, which took effect in April last year, establishes that shark fishing is legal only when sharks are unloaded at docks with their fins attached to their bodies (TT, July 8, 2005), a measure to prevent shark finning – the cutting off of shark’s cartilage-filled fins for profitable sales in Asian markets and throwing the lesser-valued bodies back to sea.

However, the Fisheries Institute has interpreted the law to allow artificially attached fins, and has permitted vessels to unload fins tied with nylon string or rope to the sharks’ bodies, a system that environmentalists and the Government Attorney’s Office have charged promotes shark finning.

The most recent ruling by the Government Attorney’s Office states: “The interpretation of Article 40 of the Fishery Law, that shark fins must be landed attached in natural form to their respective bodies, is binding for INCOPESCA.” PRETOMA president Randall Arauz welcomed the ruling.

“INCOPESCA’s policies during Costa Rica’s last administration, particularly the refusal to abide by the Attorney General’s rulings and the best scientific information, deserved Ex-President Pacheco the sad distinction of International Shark Enemy of the Year 2005 (TT, Jan. 20), and have represented a disgrace for our country and threatened our marine resources,” Arauz said in the statement.

“We welcome the ruling and hope the new INCOPESCA administration helps end shark finning by finally complying with our national laws,” he added.

INCOPESCA executive president Luis París, who took his post in May, told The Tico Times last week that is exactly what the institute plans to do.

“Logically, we have to adapt our (dock) inspections to the Government Attorney’s Office specifications. That’s how it has to be,” he said.


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