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New Shark Fin Poaching Arrests Made by Coast Guard in Costa Rica

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A fishing vessel carrying 120 shark fins was boarded earlier today by the National Coast Guard Service of Costa Rica in the Pacific. The incident occurred in the province of Puntarenas, between Golfito and Punta Burica and not far from Punta Banco. This is the second such arrest made by the Coast Guard this month in the same area.

The boarding took place during an observation voyage by patrol boat B2-4. According to a news report by ADN Radio 90.7 FM, members of the Coast Guard assigned to Station Golfito boarded the fishing vessel Yamauke, registration number P-8969, registered in Costa Rica. “Yama-uke” is a romanized Japanese term that describes a block used in martial arts.

According to Station Chief Felix Villalobos, the four crew members of the Yamauke appeared to be nervous during the boarding. The FV Yamauke carried about a ton of legal catch of diverse species in her fish hold, but once the Coast Guard officers inspected the coolers they understood why the fishermen appeared anxious: One of the coolers contained 120 shark fins that had been crudely hacked off.

Shark fishing is legal in Costa Rica -within certain limits. The Coast Guard boarding team members, however, did not find any sharks aboard the FV Yamauke, a prima facie case of shark fin poaching and a violation of our Fishing Laws. Three adults and one minor were taken into custody, and the FV Yamauke was confiscated along with her catch. In these cases, the seized catch is immediately auctioned off once it has been recorded and prosecutors notified.

Illegal Shark Fin Trade Under Scrutiny in the Americas

With regard to shark fin poaching, June has been a busy month -and not just for the Coast Guard. The Costa Rica Star reported on the arrest of the FV Elizabeth X just two weeks ago; 58 shark fins were confiscated in that case. A little over a week ago, President Laura Chinchilla met with her Colombian counterpart and pledged collaboration and increased vigilance against the malicious shark fin trade.

On June 20th, the National Assembly issued a report in which the Environmental Legislative Commission acknowledged that it had once again reviewed File Number 16890, a Special Investigation into the Shark Fin Trade in Costa Rica. This file has been floating around since July 2008, but the recent arrest of Sea Shepherd Conservation Society founder Paul Watson and his pending extradition has brought about a new focus of this issue.

Earlier this week, the government of Venezuela announced new legislation that prohibits shark finning and establishes a marine sanctuary for protection of the shark species.

In North America, jurisdictions in the United States and Canada are considering legislative measures to curb the shark fin trade. The State of Delaware passed a shark protection statute, but the New York Times reported from Albany that the NY Senate failed to act on a similar bill this year. Municipalities in Canada are considering a ban on the shark fin trade, but federal law is getting in their way, according to the Toronto Star.

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