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Monday, October 27, 2003

SSCS Joins Call for Nullification of New Costa Rican Shark Fin Regulations

The Sea Shepherd Conservation Society today has called on the Costa Rican Minister of the Environment to nullify new Costa Rican shark fin regulations.

The call for nullification is supported by more than 60 Costa Rican biologists from the University of Costa Rica, the National University, the Universidad Latina, and the Union of Biologists and by numerous international conservation organizations.

The new INCOPESCA regulation would cancel a 2001 regulation which had banned the landing of shark fins at Costa Rican ports, and mandated that all shark carcasses must be landed with fins attached.

The 2001 regulation was praised around the world for its compliance with the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization Code of Conduct of Responsible Fisheries, which condemns shark finning.

The new regulation, on the other hand, would allow vessels to land unattached shark fins and has received strong domestic and international opposition.

A key component of the new regulation includes a complicated plan to use biologists from Costa Rica's Union of Biologists to supervise the landings of shark products by international longline vessels, and collect shark biological data.

Due to the extreme difficulties of determining species of landed finless shark carcasses and unattached shark fins, the new regulation would make the research work virtually impossible, and thus, biologists themselves are opposing the plan.

The new regulation is scheduled to take effect on November 3, 2003.

"The general idea of using biologists is excellent, but if you are going to use biologists to collect shark biology data, shark carcasses must be landed with fins attached," said Randall Arauz, Director of PRETOMA. "Shark experts worldwide and the UN FAO confirm that collecting biological data of finless shark carcasses is a virtually impossible task. If we are going to include biologists we must facilitate their work, not frustrate it. Sticking to the 2001 regulation and demanding fins attached, would aid biologists and thus simply makes more sense."

"We fail to see the logic in the new regulation, and are concerned because its passage came as a surprise, before public comments were completed," said Irene Boza, biologist at PRETOMA. "Furthermore, for weeks we have been asking INCOPESCA for the two-week biological study they did when creating the new regulation, but we still haven't seen it."

"The only support for this new regulation is coming from INCOPESCA, and INCOPESCA's support appears to be a capitulation to Taiwanese and other international fishing companies who would benefit enormously from greater possibilities for finning and landing shark fins here," said Arauz. "We are calling for a complete return to the 2001 regulation, and we would give our full support for using biologists to augment that regulation. If your objective is to protect sharks and collect data for responsible management of shark resources, the old regulation plus biologists is a perfect Combination."

Captain Paul Watson commenting on the new regulations said, "Costa Rica is rapidly becoming the most corrupt government in Latin America. The President of Costa Rica appears to be bought and paid for by the Taiwanese. The senseless slaughter of, and diminishment of the sharks in Costa Rican waters for the sole purpose of providing a tasteless prestige cuisine in Asia is obscene. The Taiwanese appear to be calling the shots in Costa Rica these days and the sharks are to be sacrificed to appease their greedy and ecologically destructive demands. It is an outrage and the President of Costa Rica should be charged with treason for selling out the marine heritage of his people."

The Sea Shepherd Conservation Society has been protecting sharks in Costa Rican waters since 1991 when Captain Watson and the crew of the Sea Shepherd II first chased shark poachers out of the Cocos Island Marine Reserve.

Since then, Sea Shepherd assisted in the arrest and seizure of the Ecuadorian poacher San Jose in 2001 and donated radar, generators and enforcement equipment to the Cocos Island rangers in 2002.