Costa Rica Shark Finning – Is It Being Monitored?

This 2lb catch of Shark fins is can be worth over $1000 in the Asia market.

This 2lb catch of Shark fins can be worth over $1000 in the Asia market.

Around early 1980s a friend wanted to open up a fresh fish exporting business in Puntarenas. He found a packing house and cannery, got some investors and was ready to start exporting fresh Dorado and canned tuna. One of the things that were puzzling to him was Costa Rica fishermen were catching sharks in their long lines and gill nets. Shark at the time was a worthless meat so they were either leaving the dead carcass and/or just cutting off the fin which would eventually kill the shark.  Some of the boats had small piles of fins along with their catch of dorado and snapper. My friend through it was a total waste of good meat – at the time, shark meat was becoming a more popular dish in the U.S.

With the TBA long battle and their success on banning exporting of billfish meat, management of billfish, and recently the mandatory monitors on commercial vessels, they may have to now get involved in the banning of taking shark fin. But will it happened?

Shark fins have reached an all time high, one pound of died shark fin is worth $300, one pound of fresh shark fin and the market is known to fetch $500. Shark fin soup is a popular item of Chinese cuisine since the Ming Dynasty and it is usually served at special occasions such as weddings and banquets or as a luxury item in Chinese culture.

Longlines are the most significant cause of losses in shark populations worldwide. Shark finning is widespread, and largely unmanaged and unmonitored due to Costa Rica’s many private docks, that are not only used in drug smuggling, but illegal exporting of another delicacy, billfish meat.

Animal rights activists and environmentalists have called the practice brutal and it is also named as a primary contributing factor in the global decline of many shark species.

Back in 2006, Corte Supreme de la Justicia de Costa Rica ruled that foreign ships must use public docks where their catch can be supervised, but they did not put in a provision for local commercial fishermen.

Private docks such as the ones many hotels own, are rarely monitored for what comes in terms of catch.  Even if the major ones like Los Suenos have government officials that make sure fishermen have fishing license, but do little or nothing to monitor catch.  And with the economy the way it has been,  it is very temping for a fisherman to cut off a few fins, and make more money in one day, then two weeks of fishing. For example, just a few hundreds yards south of Los Suenos is a cove that harbors many local commercial gill netters. There is no watchdog or government group that inspects the boats coming in.

Recently, a very small number of protesters against the use of private docks staged a protest at the Corte Supreme de la Justicia Wednesday because the court had not enforced its own 2006 ruling. The protesters got very little press coverage. The only paper I know that mentioned anything about it was AM Costa Rica.

Due to China’s major investments in Costa Rica, it is pretty clear that officials are being asked to turn the other way.   The practice has strong support from these Asian investors who have managed to prevent decisive and enforcement action by two presidents.

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  1. Ben Anderson says:

    I am on a boat in Costa Rica and the people are very nice but if you live in a tin shack you want to make an easy buck but that easy buck went to near the top of extinction. I do fish but I only fish for certain things such as mahi mahi, tuna, and wahoo but I try to not catch more than we can stuff in our mouths which is really one fish. But don’t over fish because there might not be any left someday.

  2. I would really like to see numbers and names of specific people or docks that run these operations, until then anything said about what is being done in CR cannot be supported.
    The film made a few years ago about shark finning in CR was done at a time when CR had no legislation in place. As it stands now all the private docks have government officals present when they disembark their product.
    I just wish that anyone with something to say about CR practices would have the balls to name names so that some kind of action can be taken, anything else is BS.

  3. Most of the time sharks who are finned are finned alive.Now think about that what if you had you fingers cut off while you’re alive without anesthetic.

  4. Killing anything is not nice. Killing to eat is justified, but killing for the sake of killing, or just to keep the fins and leave the animal to die, that’s just cruel.

  5. Costa Rica’s beautiful landscapes and scenic areas offer a variety of options for sport fishing. Sport fishing vacation packages can offer a unique fishing experience, with private preserves and specialty boats filled with luxury amenities.

  6. If you email the new president of Costa Rica ( or and ask her to do something about it, or you will tell your friends to stop visiting their country – then maybe something will be done. Also, you can donate to who is leading the effort to stop shark finning. I believe 90% of the world’s shark population has been exterminated. It leads to ask, what happens when the top of the food chain is taken out, how it will affect the other fish in the sea?

  7. It is good to take note of all the possible factors involved in buying a car. If you have purchased a real estate property in Costa Rica and you plan on buying a car, you should also consider the maintenance expenses.

  8. george says:

    as long as some goverment people get their kickbacks they do not care what happens in the world what we need is good goverment like you now have there in COSTA RICA i will be watching her from here in CANADA if your goverment turns out no good I PROMISE I WILL TELL ALL MY FRIENDS HERE TO NOT AND I MEAN NOT ONLY NOT COME THERE BUT NOT TO BUILD OR INVEST IN YOUR COUNTRY BUT I HAVE FAITH IN YOUR GOVERMENT


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