The Costa Rican National Coast Guard has alerted Interpol officials that some fishermen have been brutally mutilating sharks to exploit a loophole in the national legislation that states that the shark fin has to be brought to land ‘naturally attached’ to its body.
The law was created in an attempt to put an end to shark finning, a fishing practice where the fin is cut off from the shark and the body is returned to sea to bleed to death in agony. Today, around 50 countries have adopted the law.
However, this seems to not be causing the positive effect it was supposed to make. As seen in the images provided by Interpol, fishermen are leaving the minimum necessary to maintain the fin attached to the spine and continue to throw the bodies back into the water.
“An INTERPOL Purple Notice has been circulated for a modus operandi of the technique where only a band of skin to keep the fin attached to the spine is retained and the remainder of the body discarded at sea. This method is aimed at circumventing legislation banning finning which states that the fins of the shark must be ‘naturally attached’ to the body,” stated the INTERPOL on their website.
“This is surely against the spirit of the law,” Sonja Fordham, president of Sharks Advocates International, told The Huffington Post over the phone. “It’s really very disappointing and upsetting.”
Shark finning has been banned in Costa Rica since last year. Before that, it is estimated that up to 400,000 sharks were killed per year in Costa Rican waters for their fins.
Head of NCB San José Gustavo Chinchilla said: “This is an opportunity to encourage other member countries to share types of modi operandi, in order to alert enforcement authorities to environmental crimes. I strongly believe that international cooperation and use of INTERPOL´s tools, such as Purple Notices, allow us to provide a more coordinated and effective response to addressing fisheries issues.”
Max Bello, senior advisor for the Global Shark Conservation, said to The Huffington Post: “Costa Rica is a major exporter of shark fins. The fishermen are particularly creative, I think. They’re always trying to find new ways to get around the law.”
According to Bello, the only solution to save the sharks would be to ban the exportation of shark fins and other shark products such as shark meat from Costa Rica.
“We all agree on shark finning, but we need to start talking broader. Shark overfishing is absolutely out of control all around the world. Populations of most species have already been depleted heavily, and we’re depleting sharks to the point of non-recovery if we keep going this way,” he said. “We are not taking account of what we’re doing to sharks, and that’s very, very scary.”
Researchers estimate that approximately 100 million sharks are killed annually worldwide.