SAN JOSE: A Costa Rican court has sentenced a Taiwanese business owner to prison over a fishing haul of illegally hacked-off shark fins destined for sale abroad, officials and environmentalists said on Thursday (Feb 9).
The businesswoman, identified by her last name of Tseng, was ordered to spend six months behind bars. The verdict was handed down on Monday by the court in the western port city of Puntarenas.
It was the first criminal sentence in the country against the practice of shark finning, which involves slicing off a shark's fins before dropping the live fish back in the sea. Unable to swim effectively, the wounded creature faces a grim future: suffocating, starving or being eaten.
Shark fins fetch a high price in Asia, where they are often used in soups served on special occasions.
Tseng's was "a historic sentence," said Gladys Martinez, lawyer for the Interamerican Association for Environmental Defense (AIDA).
Her case began in October 2011, when her fishing boat, the Wan Jia Men 88, was found with 151 sharks aboard. Their fins had been chopped off.
She was initially acquitted in 2014, but the matter went to appeal, and the Puntarenas court this week found her responsible for damage to Costa Rica's natural resources.
The Central American country, known for its biodiversity, has ratified several treaties for the protection and sustainable use of marine resources.