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First Criminal Charges for Shark Finning in Costa Rica

A Costa Rican court has, for the first time, served criminal charges for shark finning and sentenced a Taiwanese business owner to prison.

Shark finning is a serious problem in Costa Rica, involving organized crime and the Taiwanese Mafia. Shark-fin soup is a delicacy in many Asian restaurants, where a bowl can cost $100 USD. Costa Rica thusly became a significant contributor to the international shark-fin market by the 1990s.

Costa Rica has since become a leading example in conservation and the sustainable use of natural resources. In recent years, the Costa Rican government has been involved in initiatives to manage shark populations more responsibly. Most notably, the country banned shark finning in 2012. The government has also joined efforts with other countries to include hammerhead sharks in Appendix II of CITES and Appendix II of the Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals (CMS). 

Shark finning arrest in Costa Rica 

A Puntarenas court heard the recent case of illegal shark finning against Taiwanese businesswoman Tsung (surname). It subsequently sentenced her to a 6-month prison sentence. Authorities found her fishing boat, the Wan Jia Men 88, in October 2011 with 151 finned sharks on board. The case was initially acquitted in 2014, was appealed and then finished with a guilty verdict.

Despite this positive development, there is still lots of work to do in Costa Rica. The Representative Council of Scientific Authorities (CRAC-CITES) is currently considering a request to export a shipment of 1,500 pounds (690 kilos) of hammerhead shark fins from Costa Rica to Asia. Smalley Development S.A. submitted the request for export permit, which conservationists have roundly criticized. The decision must rely on evidence that removing that many sharks would not negatively affect the hammerhead species population, as required by Costa Rica’s wildlife conservation law. There is currently no evidence to suggest hammerhead shark populations have recovered enough to justify renewed trade. This current issue threatens the country’s international image as a leader in conservation.

In stark contrast, Tsung’s prison sentence is a clear message that Costa Rica will not tolerate finning in its waters.