While the light of the media shines on the global pandemic and many of us sit back in the safety of our homes, the biggest shark fin seizure in the history of Hong Kong a has just detained fins from an estimated 38,500 endangered sharks. Two shipping from Ecuador holding a record 26 tonnes of shark fins with a value of US $1.1million, according to South China Morning Post, has been recovered with ongoing investigations.
Hong Kong sees about half of the global shark fin trade and the sale and consumption remains legal, although, a permit is required for endangered sharks listed by the U.N. Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES). The customs and excise department released a statement “Under the Protection of Endangered Species of Animals and Plants Ordinance, any person found guilty of importing or exporting an endangered species without a licence is liable to a maximum fine of $10 million and imprisonment for 10 years.”
Suspicions grew over the two containers when officers noticed they were marked in Spanish. Danny Cheung Kwok-yin representing customs and excise departments marine enforcement group explained “It’s unusual for some imported goods to be described in foreign languages other than english” adding that hauls of shark fins from Ecuador have been detained before. Each container contained 13 tonnes of shark fin, 90 per cent from controlled shark species. The owner of the logistics firm, a 57-year-old man has been arrested but granted bail during further investigations.
Illegal hauls supply a large demand for shark fin soup, a culturally valued delicacy and traditionally a symbol of wealth in places across Asia. With little taste, the fin provides just texture while the flavour is often made from chicken broth. For the shark, finning is an ultimate death sentence. The practise involves removing fins at sea and discarding the carcass back to sea. Tossed overboard with no ability to swim, steer or balance, sharks descend down to the seabed while slowly and tragically dying from suffocation or blood loss. According to world wildlife fund, shark fin trade is responsible for more than 70 million shark deaths per year and has led to extinction of more than a quarter of shark species.
As apex predators, sharks keep marine life in healthy balance and play a role in regulating oceans. Further measures must be put in place to crack down on the illegal market of shark fins. Juan Oliphant owner of one ocean diving alleged “with many police and ranger patrols ordered to shelter at home, and with parks and marine reserves empty of tourists, the doors have been left wide open for opportunistic poachers to have an open-season on vulnerable and endangered species”. Adding that although nature has been given a chance to breath “a shocking environemntal crisis is unfolding that is threatening to unwind decades of hard-fought conservation wins”.
We must not turn a blind eye to the crisis unfolding at sea. To help #EndTheTrade — sign the declaration — urge the worlds governments to recognise the important decision to end commercial trade and sale of wild terrestrial animals, for consumption worldwide. #ExtinctionEndsHere
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