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Public Official in Costa Rica Accused of Shark Finning

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Source: Flickr CC

Source: Flickr CC

Prosecutors in Puntarenas, a major port city in the Pacific coast of Costa Rica, have lodged a criminal complaint against the Executive President of the National Institute of Fishing and Aquaculture (Spanish acronym: INCOPESCA). The charges are related to shark fin poaching.

According to an online news report by Alvaro Sanchez of CRHoy.com, INCOPESCA’s Executive President Luis Dobles has been accused by prosecutors of Costa Rica’s Ministry of Public Safety (MSP in Spanish) of authorizing the offload of a malicious catch of fin-less sharks in Puntarenas.

The complaint, which has been filed under docket 11-2032-431 PE, is awaiting a resolution by the criminal division of the court in Puntarenas. It explains that a fishing vessel flying the Belizean flag requested authorization to dock and offload in Puntarenas; however, a better purchase offer may have arrived from El Salvador. According to Dobles, the boat returned to Costa Rica five days later.

Should the charges against Dobles stick, they would vindicate Paul Watson, founder of the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society and international fugitive, who claims that public officials in Costa Rica are in cahoots with shark fin poachers and their wicked, yet lucrative, trade.

The MSP complaint alleges that the Belizean fishing vessel offloaded sharks that had been relieved of their fins. This may conform to a tactic used by shark fin poachers who seek to skirt the law: They legally catch sharks, but they hack off their fins and leave them to die on deck or below in the fish hold. When the boat docks, the criminal crew fakes selling the catch, which is exchanged at a bargain price or quickly disposed of.

The prosecutor’s office in Puntarenas is the busiest in Costa Rica with regard to shark fin poaching. In the last two years, they have processed seven related complaints, including the case of the Hung Chi Fu, in which the captain of the Taiwanese vessel initially received a fine, but was later sentenced to two years in prison. Prosecutors in Puntarenas are currently handling six shark finning cases.

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