HomeNewsBriefCosta Rica Ruling Could Open Door to Shark Finning
BRIEF

Costa Rica Ruling Could Open Door to Shark Finning

COSTA RICA / 15 APR 2014 BY CHARLES PARKINSON EN

Conservationists in Costa Rica have reacted strongly to a court ruling that absolves a woman accused of shark "finning" and orders the compensation of a boat captain connected to the case, saying the judgment effectively serves to legitimize the illicit trade.

In an April 7 ruling, Judge Franklin Lara ordered the Costa Rican government to pay Su Hsien Feng over $6,600 for 652 fins confiscated and destroyed in 2011, after the ship he captained docked in the Pacific Puntarenas port with 332 shark skeletons on board, reported the Tico Times.

The judgment also exonerated the Taiwanese-Costa Rican owner of the fishing operation, Kathy Tseng, who was the first person to face prosecution for so-called shark "spining." This technique involves leaving the fin attached to the shark's spine, rather than removing it completely and tossing the animal back in the water. It takes advantage of a clause in Costa Rican legislation that requires fins to remain "naturally attached" to sharks' bodies, reported the Tico Times.

The judge ruled Tseng's company had remained within the limits of the law because they did not unload or sell the consignment. At the time of the seizure, Tseng claimed the meat had been used as bait and to feed the crew.

InSight Crime Analysis

According to conservationists, the ruling will essentially allow shark fin loads to be docked in Costa Rican ports, as long as they are not unloaded, making it effectively impossible to prosecute fishermen caught finning at sea.

Shark fins are a delicacy in Asia that fetch up to $700 per kilo, driving the practice in both Costa Rica and other parts of Latin America, such as Peru. Outcry over the inhumane nature of the trade -- which sees the rest of the animal discarded -- led Costa Rica to ban finning in 2012, but fishermen have continued to exploit legal loopholes, as seen in the present case.

SEE ALSO: Coverage of Costa Rica

The continued legal ambiguities surrounding spining were underlined by Tseng's insistence she did nothing wrong because the missing meat was all used. The judge's stance that shark fin shipments only become illegal once they are unloaded also casts doubt over anti-finning operations at sea -- with a large consignment of fins confiscated at sea less than a week before the ruling.

The ruling, if it holds, could tar Costa Rica's reputation as a conservation and eco-tourism hub. In addition to the cruelty of the practice, finning has clear negative implications on shark populations: the Tico Times reports that more than 90 percent of some species have been wiped out over the past 15 years.

share icon icon icon

Was this content helpful?

We want to sustain Latin America’s largest organized crime database, but in order to do so, we need resources.

DONATE

What are your thoughts? Click here to send InSight Crime your comments.

We encourage readers to copy and distribute our work for non-commercial purposes, with attribution to InSight Crime in the byline and links to the original at both the top and bottom of the article. Check the Creative Commons website for more details of how to share our work, and please send us an email if you use an article.

Was this content helpful?

We want to sustain Latin America’s largest organized crime database, but in order to do so, we need resources.

DONATE

Related Content

COCA / 29 SEP 2021

The presence of corrupt actors who have a vested interest in allowing environmental crime to happen coupled with an overall…

COSTA RICA / 19 JUL 2012

Seven police officers in Costa Rica have been sentenced to 22 years in prison for drug trafficking. Their convictions are…

COSTA RICA / 1 MAR 2017

A high level meeting between officials in Costa Rica and Nicaragua is expected to lead to greater cooperation on tackling…

About InSight Crime

THE ORGANIZATION

Apure Investigation Makes Headlines

22 OCT 2021

InSight Crime’s investigation into the battle for the Venezuelan border state of Apure resonated in both Colombian and Venezuelan media. A dozen outlets picked up the report, including Venezuela’s…

THE ORGANIZATION

InSight Crime Tackles Illegal Fishing

15 OCT 2021

In October, InSight Crime and American University’s Center for Latin American and Latino Studies (CLALS) began a year-long project on illegal, unreported, unregulated (IUU) fishing in…

THE ORGANIZATION

InSight Crime Featured in Handbook for Reporting on Organized Crime

8 OCT 2021

In late September, the Global Investigative Journalism Network (GIJN) published an excerpt of its forthcoming guide on reporting organized crime in Indonesia.

THE ORGANIZATION

Probing Organized Crime in Haiti

1 OCT 2021

InSight Crime has made it a priority to investigate organized crime in Haiti, where an impotent state is reeling after the July assassination of President Jovenel Moïse, coupled with an…

THE ORGANIZATION

Emergency First Aid in Hostile Environments

24 SEP 2021

At InSight Crime's annual treat, we ramped up hostile environment and emergency first aid training for our 40-member staff, many of whom conduct on-the-ground investigations in dangerous corners of the region.