Coast Guard officers on Tuesday night intercepted a fishing vessel with 108 shark fins off the southern Pacific port of Quepos.
The shipment amounts to the equivalent of some 27 sharks that have been stripped of their fins and then thrown back into the ocean, a common and brutal practice among shark-finners.
Shark finning is prohibited in Costa Rica by a Fishing Law approved on Oct. 10 last year.
Coast Guard Director Martin Arias said officers detained the crew at around midnight on Tuesday, including three men identified by the last names Valverde Sánchez, Jiménez González and Valverde Ramírez, all residents of Quepos. The suspects were released Wednesday by order of the local prosecutor’s office.
According to the Fishing Law, shark-finners face immediate seizure of their vessels, the loss of their fishing licenses and fines up to 25-60 minimum wages – some $19,000-$45,000. An Environmental Court also can file charges against crew members.
Officials from the Costa Rican Fisheries Institute inspected the ship and found a load of sailfish that surpassed by 15 percent the legally allowed amount. Prosecutors ordered 775 kg of sailfish confiscated, and it will be auctioned pending permits from the National Animal Health Service.