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Wildlife Watch

Busted: Fishing Boat Caught With Contraband Shark Fins

In this week’s crime blotter: a lucrative catch, rhino poaching, and a hunt for an illegal logger.

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Shark fins are considered a luxury item in parts of Southeast Asia, where they're used in soups.


They’ve been called chewy and stringy, gelatinous and bland. But the well-heeled will still pony up a hundred dollars to eat them in a bowl of soup.

In China especially, shark fins are prized as a status symbol, served along with chicken broth at business meetings, weddings, and other events to flaunt wealth. Fishermen often don’t want the sharks themselves, so they cut off the fins and throw the mutilated animal overboard to save space in the boat.

Many countries have banned shark finning, including Taiwan. But Taiwanese police say that didn’t stop one fishing crew from doing it.

On June 11, coast guard inspectors allegedly found four shark fins in a registered boat at the fishing port of Hualien, without their carcasses aboard, Taiwanese media reports.

The boat’s captain, Lin (his family name), admitted to removing fins from one shark and tossing its body overboard before entering the port. He said he intended to eat the fins himself.

It’s unclear whether the fins belonged to a protected shark species. It’s illegal to capture protected sharks. Fishermen can catch ones that aren’t protected and slice off their fins, but only if the rest of the shark’s body remains on the boat. Lin could face a maximum sentence of three years in prison and a $4,600 (NT$150,000) fine, according to the Taipei Times.

Some other wildlife crime busts, convictions, and investigations around the world announced this past week:

RHINO WARS: Authorities in Assam, India, busted a man accused of poaching a rhino in Kaziranga National Park, according to the Times of India. Police say the suspect confessed to his involvement in the incident. The government has suspended the director of the park for allegedly concealing the poaching. Kaziranga holds two-thirds of the world’s estimated 3,500 one-horned rhinos, which face a high risk of extinction in the wild, though their population has increased since the 1970s.

BRIDGE BREAKER: Cops in Kampot Province, in southern Cambodia, launched a manhunt for a truck driver suspected of holding illegal luxury timber, according to the Khmer Times. The truck was so heavy that it damaged a local bridge. Police believe the driver was headed to Vietnam.

BOXES OF IVORY: An alleged ivory-smuggling scheme ended with the arrest of four people at Juba International Airport in South Sudan, Radio Tamazuj reports. The government recovered about 1.2 tons of ivory in 25 boxes. According to officials, the suspects intended to fly the ivory to Egypt and later to Malaysia.

TORTOISE TROUBLE: Police in Kathmandu, the capital of Nepal, arrested a man accused of smuggling 109 tortoises and 162 birds, República says. The cops rescued the creatures, which included three parrots and giant tortoises, threatened by predators such as dogs, cats, and cattle. They’ve been taken to a zoo.

FISHY ORDEAL: Cops nabbed six men from Overberg, a fishing village in South Africa, suspected of the illegal possession of crayfish and abalone, News24 reports. The 104 crayfish and 10 shucked abalone, a pricey and edible sea snail, had an estimated value of $4,000 (R61,500).

LOGGING ATTACK: Two suspected illegal loggers allegedly attacked park rangers in the Central Highlands region in south-central Vietnam, Thanhnien News reports. Police arrested one of the suspects, but the other escaped.

This story was produced by National Geographic’s Special Investigations Unit, which focuses on wildlife crime and is made possible by grants from the BAND Foundation and the Woodtiger Fund. Read more stories from the SIU on Wildlife Watch. Send tips, feedback, and story ideas to ngwildlife@ngs.org.

Follow Jani Actman on Twitter.

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