Defense witnesses in shark finning trial choose not to testify
Final conclusions and sentencing next April 3rd.
(March 25, 2014 – San José, Costa Rica)
Defense witnesses of Kathy Tseng, a business woman accused of shark finning by the Puntarenas’ Court, chose not to testify during a hearing this past March 21. Tseng is accused of landing shark fins attached to backbones, an act identified by experts of the Judicial Investigation Bureau (OIJ in spanish) and INTERPOL as finning. The defense had called two expert witnesses that would obviously declare in Tseng’s favor: the Costa Rican Fisheries and Aquaculture Institute’s (INCOPESCA) biologist José Miguel Carvajal, and biologist Moisés Mug. However, Carvajal declined to testify on March 21st, the day of the hearing, while Mug chose to not even show up. The public prosecutor, on the other hand, had at his disposal technical advice provided by Randall Arauz from the Costa Rican organization PRETOMA.
Without its expert witnesses, Tseng’s defense could do little more than base it´s argument on the following allegations:
- Shark finning was not committed, as the practice is done to save space in the vessel’s hold, and the total catch was only a portion of the vessel’s holding capacity.
- Shark finning was not committed because there is a proposal to modify certain articles of the Fisheries Law in order to permit the use of thresher and hammer head shark meat as bait, as long as the fins are attached to whatever remains of the body.
- Tseng is not the responsible; as the true responsibility lies upon the boat’s captain and the Maritime Agency SERMAR.
To these claims PRETOMA replies:
- The ship’s carrying capacity is irrelevant. If there is but one shark in a ship’s 100 ton hold, it must have its fins naturally attached, according to the Fisheries Law.
- A proposal is irrelevant as its mere existence does not change the Fisheries Law that states that fins must be naturally attached to the shark´s body when landed.
- -Just as the Prosecuting Attorney noted, Tseng appears in various documents as the person responsible for the landing, and relevant documents as sales bills from her company Fortuna del Pacífico, were in fact accepted by the Court as evidence.
“Clearly, what has occurred here is an undeniable case of finning”, noted Randall Arauz, of PRETOMA. “We hope that all of those involved are rightfully punished, especially the INCOPESCA officials who looked the other way during this flagrant violation of the Fisheries Law”, said Arauz.