Alisa Manzelli, Global Animal

COSTA RICA – On Wednesday, President Laura Chinchilla signed a presidential decree banning the practice of shark finning, in which the fins are sliced off live sharks who are then tossed back into the ocean to die. The executive order also bans the importation and transportation of shark fins to and from Costa Rica.

Under existing legislation passed in 2001, shark finning itself had been banned in Costa Rica. However, the new decree closes the loopholes that still allowed the transport and import of shark fins, thus fully banning the shark fin trade.

President Laura Chinchilla greets a young student during a trip to Manuel Antonio National Park to sign a decree that bans shark finning. Photo Credit: Casa Presidencial

“Costa Rica may set an example to the world when it comes to environmental protection, but it must be noted that we had a significant lag when it comes to protecting the oceans,” Chinchilla said while attending the signing ceremony in Manuel Antonio National Park, one of Costa Rica’s most treasured protected areas.

The President also announced a $10-15 million investment for a new radar system in order to target potential lawbreaking fishing boats. Chinchilla claims the radar system “will cover 100 percent of [Costa Rican] marine territory.”

Chinchilla addressed an audience that included the ministers of environment, agriculture, and livestock as well as public security and local school children, adding, “Our message is that of zero tolerance for shark finning.”

Minister Rene Castro also signed the decree, stating, “This decree will allow us to stop the fishing of sharks in Costa Rican waters, which is intolerable for a country that defends its natural resources.”

Waters and Oceans Vice Minister José Lino Chaves estimates up to 400,000 sharks were caught in Costa Rican waters last year with the intention of selling the fins.

This new legislation comes days after the country provisionally approved the first law in Central America to ban sport hunting, in an aim to preserve Costa Rica’s biodiversity.

The shark fin ban results from over 10 years of work by many of Costa Rica’s nonprofit conservation groups such as the Marine Turtle Restoration Project (Pretoma) and MarViva Foundation.

While the sport hunting ban allows subsistence hunting, the shark finning ban still permits catching of whole sharks for food.

Those who are caught finning sharks under the ban will be fined and have their fishing licenses canceled.

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