Costa Rican Conservationists Say Executive Decree Opens Market to Shark Exports

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Marine conservation groups criticized today en executive decree published last week they say paves the way for exports of sharks (and fins from sharks) that are classified as threatened or in danger of extinction.

The groups decried the Costa Rican President’s decree that grants sole mandate to authorize exports to the Costa Rican Fisheries and Aquaculture Institute (Incopesca), saying the agency is controlled by commercial fisheries and fishermen interests.

The international marine conservation and research organization Fins Attached, and Costa Rica’s MarViva and CREMA, both internationally recognized for their marine conservation research and advocacy, said the move by President Solís eliminates the participation of the Ministry of Environment and Energy (MINAE) and of scientific experts in decision making regarding shark and shark fin exports.

“This initiative of the presidency derives from its promise to the fishing sector to allow exports of hammerhead shark fins, and reflects his frustration at the refusal of national scientists to authorize it,” said Randall Arauz, a scientist with Fins Attached and renowned Costa Rican environmental activist.

Up until last Thursday, decisions regarding what species would be fished and exported lay in the hands of the National System of Conservation Areas (SINAC) and the Council of Representatives of Scientific Authorities (CRAC-CITES), which served as the country’s scientific authority.

The CRAC-CITES ensures compliance at the national level with the CITES Convention, an international treaty to which Costa Rica is a signatory that regulates the trade of endangered wild animals and plants.

The scientific council is made up of representatives of universities, Incopesca, SENASA, the fishing sector and a non-governmental representative.

In 2015, the Solís administration amended the decree regulating CRAC-CITES to include representatives of the fisheries sector. Even with their participation, the body decided in April to maintain a ban on exporting of shark fins as it considered the practice harmful to the specie’s survival.

In reaction to this decision, representatives of the fishing sector organized protests in coastal regions on May 2, and the government rushed in to “negotiations” with the fisheries sector, and acceded to their demands with this new decree, said Jorge Jiménez, director of MarViva.

“This shameful change implies a huge setback in the protection of endangered marine species and in the participation of civil society. Regulations are being manipulated for the sake of the economic interests of a group, going beyond the collective interests of the environment and its conservation. The preservation of species in danger of extinction should not be in the hands of Incopesca, an entity that has been questioned for its irresponsible management of our fishing resources,” continued Jiménez.

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