SAN JOSE, Costa Rica — World leader in environmental conservation, Costa Rica has banned the import and export of uncertified shark fins in a bold new move that it hopes catches on across Central America, a region haunted by a destructive fishing practice.

For years, marine life advocates on the Latin American isthmus have waged war against shark finning, the wasteful practice of lopping off shark fins at sea and hurling the body overboard in order to save space in cargo holds for the high-priced appendages.

Now backed by presidents and billionaires, environmentalists hope this latest pro-shark step drives the decades-old battle into the political limelight.

“We will not tolerate shark finning,” Costa Rican Environment Minister Rene Castro told journalists last week. “Zero tolerance.”

Some 400,000 sharks were slaughtered at sea in Costa Rica last year for their fins, Castro said. Most of the product is shipped to Asian countries where consumers pay a premium for the flippers in order to make traditional dishes such as shark fin soup.

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    SAN JOSE, Costa Rica — World leader in environmental conservation, Costa Rica has banned the import and export of uncertified shark fins in a bold new move that it hopes catches on across Central America, a region haunted by a destructive fishing practice. For years, marine life advocates on the...