SAN JOSE (COSTA RICA)- Government officials and environmentalists in Costa Rica are in disagreement on what to do with more than 1,200 kilograms of shark fins — the equivalent of about 2,000 hammerhead sharks — allegedly caught as bycatch and set to be exported to Asia.

The disagreement extends to regulations published in February that environmentalists contend further threaten dwindling and endangered shark populations by a country that has worked hard in international forums to protect them.

Last monday, a collection of environmental groups, including the ocean conservation group Pretoma, the Costa Rican Federation for Environmental Conservation (FECON) and Bloque Verde, asked for public support of a petition to block the export of the shark fins.

Endangered species
Marine wildlife advocates argue that the Environment Ministry’s National System of Conservation Areas (SINAC) violated the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) agreement when it granted export company Smalley Development S.A. permission on Feb. 16 to export to Hong Kong more than a metric ton of hammerhead shark fins caught in Costa Rican waters. Pretoma and conservation organization MarViva both sent letters of protest to President Luis Guillermo Solís over the authorizations.

Shark populations worldwide have been hit hard largely due to demand in Asia for shark fin soup, considered by many as a delicacy, although a movement to stop shark fin soup consumption is growing.

Whole sharks
SINAC issued a statement Monday defending its decision, noting that the fins were collected from whole sharks – Costa Rica forbids the landing of shark fins unless they are attached to an entire shark’s body – before the CITES agreement went into effect in Costa Rica on Sept. 14, 2014. The government’s statement acknowledged that this was the second time a permit had been granted for the export of shark fins since Dec. 22, 2014, when permission was granted to export 411 kilograms of shark fins.

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