April 7th, 2015 (InsideCostaRica.com) Conservation groups Turtle Island Restoration Network and PRETOMA have found evidence that the fins of hammerhead sharks (Sphyrna lewini) are being flown from Costa Rica to Hong Kong by way of stop-overs in the United States, violating U.S. law.
Eastern Pacific Scalloped hammerhead sharks are listed as “endangered” under the U.S. Endangered Species Act (ESA). The export and trade of endangered species shark fins violates environmental law, which bans shipments of endangered species products, including “in transit” hammerhead shark fins.
In a Monday press release, the conservation groups provided a Dropbox archive of documents which reveal the practice, including invoices, shipping receipts, and permits issued by Costa Rican regulators.
The documents from late 2014 include two invoices: one totaling $26,211 USD for 220.85 kilos of shark fins from November 27th, and a second totaling $52,857 for 411.2 kilos of fins on December 24th.
The fins were sold by a company named “Inversiones Cruz Z, S.A.” located in Puntarenas to “Yue Hing Shark’s Fin & Marine Products Co. Ltd.” In Hong Kong, according to the invoices.
An export permit issued by Costa Rican authorities indicates that the shark fins were to be shipped by American Airlines. According to the conservation groups, the fins were destined for a stop-over in the United States en route to Hong Kong.
“Given the routing of cargo shipments to China from Costa Rica, these shipments clearly touched down in the U.S., where they should have been confiscated under the ESA and thus been prevented from further trade and sale. However, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service failed to enforce the ESA, and allowed the shipments to continue on to Hong Kong,” Turtle Island and PRETOMA stated.
The groups claim the latest shipment for which they have evidence occurred on February 20th, 2015, when the groups claim an additional 455 kilos of fins were exported, presumably in the same manner, though it is not clear if the same companies were involved.
“Costa Rica’s disregard for international laws designed to protect endangered wildlife coupled with the U.S. government’s failure to enforce prohibitions on illegal shark fin shipments spells disaster for scalloped hammerhead populations,” said Doug Karpa, legal program director with Turtle Island Restoration Network. “These unique sharks could go extinct in our lifetime if we don’t end this illegal trade.”
“We warned the Costa Rican officials that these exports would occur in violation of the ESA, but the higher authorities of the Ministry of Environment decided to proceed with the exports anyway,” said a concerned Randall Arauz of PRETOMA. “We blew the whistle and alerted the U.S. authorities as well, with no positive response either.”
“All scalloped hammerhead fins exported from Costa Rica derive from the endangered Eastern Pacific population that is protected under the ESA. The fact that the U.S. failed to interrupt the shipments the moment they touched down on U.S. soil, makes them an accomplice in the unregulated, international trade of shark fins,” said Maike Heidemeyer, a biologist with PRETOMA who investigated the shipments.