San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Fishing Law Triggered Opposition

The Fishing Law that took effect in April 2005 this year triggered opposition that resulted in protests and legal action.

In early January, more than 300 fishermen and their supporters gathered in the northwestern province of Guanacaste demanding reforms to allow limited fishing in protected marine areas. Protesters obtained support from the Ministry of Environment and Energy (MINAE), whose minister at the time, Carlos Manuel Rodríguez, promised to submit reforms to the Legislative Assembly.

Protests continued that month as fishermen on the central Pacific coast blocked Puntarenas, one of the country’s main ports. This time fishermen demanded the dismissal of Ligia Castro, head of the Costa Rican Fisheries Institute (INCOPESCA), because of dissatisfaction over fuel subsidies.

A week later, Castro was ordered to take a vacation. Luis Paris replaced Castro in May when he took office with the rest of the country’s new administration.

In April, the administration of then-President Abel Pacheco submitted a reform to the Fishing Law to allow limited fishing in protected areas, but by November, environmentalists celebrated lawmakers’ rejection of the proposal.

Discussion of the law’s prohibition of shark finning – the slicing off of shark’s cartilage-filled fins for hefty profits in Asian markets – continued throughout the year.

Article 40 states that shark fins must be landed at docks attached to shark bodies, a measure to prevent shark finning. In January, the Fisheries Institute, in charge of enforcing the law, appealed the third ruling emitted by the Government Attorney’s Office stating that fins must be unloaded with their fins naturally attached to their bodies. INCOPESCA had interpreted the law to mean fins artificially attached to shark bodies with nylon string or rope, which environmentalists charged promotes finning.

The Government Attorney’s Office issued a fourth ruling against this method in July.

The same month, the Constitutional Chamber of the Supreme Court (Sala IV) released the full text of a ruling it issued in February, demanding that shark products be unloaded only at public docks or private ones with public installations.


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