Mumbai: Revenue Intelligence officers bust international shark-fin smuggling racket

Sep 04, 2018, 13:10 IST | Rahul Mahajani

Agency seizes 8,000 kg of shark fins from Sewri and Gujarat; four arrested

Mumbai: Revenue Intelligence officers bust international shark-fin smuggling racket
The shark fins were illegally exported by mislabelling them as dried fish products

Directorate of Revenue Intelligence (DRI) sleuths busted an international smuggling racket and seized 8,000 kg of shark fins from godowns in Sewri and Veraval, Gujarat. The catch of the day, valued at Rs 45 crore, points to the indiscriminate killing of sharks and the cruel practice of shark-finning.

Stark tale
Finning involves cutting off the fin while the shark is still alive. The fin is the most valuable part, but accounts for just one to five per cent of a shark's mass. And, once that is removed, the shark is dumped back into the water, where it sinks to the bottom without its fin. The creature is left to die, either of suffocation, starvation, blood loss, or becomes prey for other predators.

As per sources, the DRI arrested four people who were smuggling the fins to Hong Kong and Singapore. A senior DRI official said, "The Directorate General of Foreign Trade (DGFT), under the Ministry of Commerce, had on February 6, 2015, prohibited the export of shark fins of all species."

But the officers had got wind of shark finning in the Arabian Sea and the illegal export racket, which declared the shark fins as dried ray skins, dried marine products, fish maw. In a raid on Saturday, 3,000 kg of shark fins were seized from a godown in Sewri, while another 5,000 kg was seized from Veraval. The four arrested are Sharafat Ali and Hamid Sultan, who own the trading company, and employers Aslique Ahmed and Shiv Raman, sources said.

Shark fin scam
In July, Kochi-based firm, Marine Finns, was accused of using the Kerala High Court to get around the central government ban on shark finning. The firm exports about 15 tonnes of shark fins a year, state reports, asking the high court for repeated relief, claiming they have been getting rid of old stock.

Legal protection
August 2013: India bans shark finning on board a sea vessel or possession of fins detached from the body of the shark
Sept 2014: India signs Convention of International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES)
Feb 6, 2015: Nation prohibits export of shark fins of all species

What's the hype?
India is said to be the second largest shark hunting nation in the world, even though there is hardly any local demand. Shark fins are smuggled to South East Asia, where they are considered luxury items, and are used either as gifts or in the delicacy, shark fin soup. The fin itself is supposed to be tasteless cartilage, but it is added to the broth as a status symbol. At one point, shark fins would sell for as much as Rs 34,000 for just half a kg. Even now, after rates have fallen due to crackdowns, fins can fetch as much as Rs 3,000 per kg. "It is also a traditional soup found in Chinese and Vietnamese cuisines, and is served at special occasions, such as weddings and banquets," said a DRI official.

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