March 17th, 2014 (InsideCostaRica.com) A woman identified by the last name Tseng will stand trial this week in Puntarenas, accused of landing 652 shark fins. Her trial is scheduled to begin on Friday.
The charges against the woman stem from September 2011, when the Coast Guard seized 625 shark fins.
Apparently, Tseng and her fisherman had utilized a new technique known as “back-boning,” where the body of the shark is butchered away from its spinal column at sea, leaving the sharks’ fins attached the spinal column.
The tactic is the latest measure being used by shark finners to skirt Costa Rica’s anti-shark finning regulations, which require sharks to be returned to land with fins still attached to their spinal columns.
Before Costa Rica and 46 other countries passed legislation against the practice of shark finning, fishermen would simply cut off the valuable shark fins from the live animal, and then dump it back into the sea – as shark fins are up to 100 times more valuable per pound than the rest of the shark, shark finners don’t want to fill up their boats’ holds with entire bodies. This latest tactic accomplishes the same goal, but without violating the law – or at least that was the belief of some shark finners.
The practice is becoming so widespread in Costa Rica that the country has issued an Interpol “purple” notice to the 46 other countries with anti-shark finning legislation to make them aware of the growing practice.
For some time, Costa Rica has been amongst the leading shark fin exporters. Some 350,000 to 400,000 sharks were killed for their fins in Costa Rican waters in 2011 alone.
The California nonprofit, Ethical Traveler removed Costa Rica from its 2014 list of The Developing World’s 10 Best Ethical Destinations, saying in part that Costa Rica “allows the persecution of activists working against the illegal shark finning trade.”
Costa Rica described the charges as “outrageous.”