• Violations of International Treaty CITES denounced

(February 5, 2015 – San Jose, Costa Rica)

Last December 24, Costa Rica exported 411 kilos of hammerhead shark fins with a declared value of US$52,857, under conditions that the Costa Rican organization PRETOMA describes as irregular and that violate the country’s commitments as a Party of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES).

Catch by longliners and the international commerce of its fins threaten the survival of hammerhead sharks

Catch by longliners and the international commerce of its fins threaten the survival of hammerhead sharks

Costa Rica played a major role during the last Conference of the Parties (CoP) of CITES in Bangkok, Thailand (March 2013), where it submitted a proposal with Honduras and Brazil to list hammerhead sharks under Appendix II of the Convention. Such a listing would not ban international commerce of hammerhead shark fins, but would rather condition exports to the emission of a Non Detrimental Finding (NDF) on behalf of the exporting country which must scientifically guarantee that the allowed international commerce will not be detrimental to the populations in question, and that traceability mechanisms exist to guarantee abidance. The proposal was accepted, and an 18 month deadline was granted to the Parties for implementation (September 14, 2014). The December 24 export of fins did not meet these requirements for the following reasons:

  • The country has not elaborated a NDF. Hammerhead shark products cannot be exported without a NDF.
  • To overcome this hurdle, a “provisional” NDF was approved by the Costa Rican Fisheries Institute (INCOPESCA), the Ministry of Environment (MINAE) and the Council of Representatives of CITES Scientific Authorities (CRACCITES), in spite of the fact that CITES makes no such exceptions.
  • The provisional NDF is nothing more than an INCOPESCA letter addressed to MINAE, void of technical foundation or bibliographic citations to sustain its subjective and capricious allegations. The provisional NDF requests an allowance to continue the unabated export of hammerhead shark fins, because few are caught anyway and no species export data exists, ignoring the reason why the species was listed under Appendix II in the first place.
  • No certificates were provided to guarantee that the 411 kilos of exported hammerhead shark fins were not obtained by “shark finning”, a requirement according to Regulation OSP-05-11 To Ban The Practice of Shark Finning in the Central American Integration System (SICA) Range Countries of the Organization of the Fishery and Aquaculture Sector of the Central American Isthmus (OSPESCA) and to the Constitutional Court (File 11-012-968-007-C). To support their claim that no shark finning had occurred, MINAE attached several Inspection and Landing Authorization Forms (FIADs) to the CITES permit which had been issued by INCOPESCA from May to November of 2014, which allegedly correspond to the exported fins. How can they claim that the shark fins exported last December 24 correspond to the fins landed up to 7 months before if no traceability system exists?

Fortunately, last January 15th the CRACCITES adopted a new Agreement, and rejected INCOPESCA’s request to extend the validity of the provisional DNP for six additional months (Minutes 01-2015 CRACCITES). Regrettably, the damage had been done.

“Even though we have been working for almost two years in close collaboration with the plethora of public institutions involved with CITES abidance (MINAE, INCOPESCA, Animal Health, Customs, Coast Guard, UNIP-University of Costa Rica) as well as other Costa Rican NGOs to write up a NDF based on the best available science, the pertinent authorities (INCOPESCA, MINAE, CRACCITES) decided to simply ignore the process” denounced Maike Heidemeyer of PRETOMA. As Heidemeyer explains “the approval of a provisional NDF that guarantees the unabated export of shark fins from Costa Rica is a violation of the Precautionary Principle, which dictates that where there are threats of serious or irreversible damage, lack of full scientific certainty shall not be used as a reason for postponing cost-effective measures to prevent environmental degradation.

“We have already become accustomed to these atrocities on behalf of INCOPESCA, but we are majorly disappointed at our MINAE authorities and the members of the CRACCITES”, said a troubled Randall Arauz of PRETOMA. “Instead of serving as a global model after successfully promoting these international agreements, we have shown that we really don’t take our CITES commitments seriously, which logically affects our credibility and reputation”.

PRETOMA calls on the high ranking national authorities to investigate this case and to duly punish those responsible, and while they are at it, to ban the exportation of shark fins until the country has a hammerhead shark NDF, and a traceability system exists that guarantees abidance to CITES.

Additional information:

  • The scalloped hammerhead shark (Sphyrna lewini) is catalogued as an Endangered Species by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), and their catch in the high seas by longline vessels and later international commercialization of their fins are acknowledged to be major threats to their survival.
  • The Eastern Tropical Pacific population of scalloped hammerhead sharks was listed last August under the Endangered Species Act of the United States, because of which this country does not allow their capture, commercialization, nor transportation through its ports.
  • Ecuador banned the capture of hammerhead sharks by its longline fleet, and limited the capture by the artisinal fleet to 5 individuals per day (Sub Secretariat of Fishery Resources, Ministry Agreement #116).
  • Two additional species of hammerhead sharks were also listed under Appendix II of CITES ( zygaena and S. mokarran) due their physical resemblance and consequent difficulty to distinguish them from scalloped hammerhead sharks.
  • The scalloped hammerhead shark was listed under Appendix II of the Convention on the Conservation Migratory Species of Wild Animals (CMS) during its CoP meeting last November in Quito, Ecuador, by initiative of Costa Rica and Ecuador, because of which the country should be working with its regional neighbors to stop and revert the extinction process faced by the species.
  • Costa Rica is obligated to act under the Precautionary Principal, as signatory of the Rio Declaration where it is enshrined and which was adopted by the UN Conference on Environment and Development, as due to Conference Resolution 9.24 of CITES, among others.

For more information:

Randall Arauz, 8344 3711

Maike Heidemeyer. 8310 9813

Mariano Castro 8841 7684

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    Violations of International Treaty CITES denounced (February 5, 2015 - San Jose, Costa Rica) Last December 24, Costa Rica exported 411 kilos of hammerhead shark fins with a declared value of US$52,857, under conditions that the Costa Rican organization PRETOMA describes as irregular and that violate the country’s commitments as a...