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Battle Ensues Over Sale of Seized Tuna

February 22, 2008

Plans to auction off 230 tons of confiscated tuna can move forward after a judge struck down an order by the Puntarenas prosecutor’s office to stop the sale.

Authorities, including the nongovernmental organization Mar Viva, seized the haul during the last week of January from the Tiuna, a boat flying Panamanian flags.

The vessel was allegedly fishing in a marine-protected area near the Isla del Coco National Park, 550 kilometers (about 365 miles) off Costa Rica’s Pacific coast.

Heiner Méndez, the head of the Fisheries Institute’s legal office, said the plan is to auction off the product and keep the funds generated in a separate account that can’t be used or transferred until the criminal case against the fishermen is resolved.

Méndez said the current price of tuna is $2,200 per ton, which means the auction could generate up to $506,000.

Institute spokesman Otto Fonseca said his agency doesn’t publish the sale but makes the sale known to various fish companies.

He said the sale could be realized as early as this weekend.

The fishermen, if convicted, face fines of up to ¢7,500,000 (about $15,000).

 

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