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Wildlife Watch

Nearly 2,000 Pounds of Illegal Shark Fins Found in Cargo

In this week’s crime blotter: fins from Panama, ivory necklaces and bracelets, and 24 illegal logging suspects arrested.

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Activists gather in Hong Kong in January to protest the consumption of shark fins.


Hong Kong authorities discovered 1,940 pounds (880 kilograms) of illegal shark fins on Tuesday in cargo arriving from Panama. The bust marks Hong Kong’s second largest shark fin haul, according to the South China Morning Post.

The fins, estimated to be worth about $100,000, are suspected to have come from an endangered hammerhead shark. The shipment didn’t have the proper permits and was addressed to a company in Sheung Wan, Hong Kong. Authorities have launched an investigation.

Hammerhead sharks are found in temperate and tropical waters all over the world. Smooth, scalloped and great hammerheads are highly threatened as a result of incidental bycatch and exploitation to meet demand for their meat and shark fin soup, which is considered a delicacy in China. They’re protected under Hong Kong law and an international treaty that restricts their trade.

Hong Kong accounts for half the global legal trade in shark fins. Last year, 92 percent of the 6,300 tons of shark fin imports reached Hong Kong by ship, the South China Morning Post reports.

Fins from protected shark species are often mixed in with legal ones, according to wildlife organizations World Wildlife Fund-Hong Kong and WildAid. That’s one of the reasons why 16 shipping companies have decided not to transport any shark fins. The activists think that other businesses should follow suit.

“The news again reinforces the high legal risk that shipping companies have to bear to carry potentially illegal shark fin continuously,” WWF-Hong Kong said in a statement. “We call on all shipping companies to follow the lead of 16 global leaders in the industry to impose a ban on shark fin shipment immediately.”

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

EGG THIEF: Police on Jupiter Island, in southern Florida, nabbed a man accused of stealing more than a hundred loggerhead sea turtle eggs, the Washington Post reports. Loggerheads, whichweigh 200 pounds on average and grow to three feet, are protected under the Endangered Species Act. Their eggs are poached for food and as an aphrodisiac.

TIMBER SCHEME: Police nabbed three suspected red sanders smugglers and one man believed to be the kingpin, reports The Hindu. Endemic to India, red sanders are valued for the rich red color of the wood.

IVORY ACCESSORIES: Police in Hanoi, the capital of Vietnam, seized a “large amount” of ivory necklaces, bracelets, and other items from a taxi, Thanhnien News reports. The driver allegedly told the cops that that someone hired him to take the illegal goods to a bus station in Hanoi, where they’d be sent to Quang Ninh Province, on the country’s northeastern coast.

LOGGING BUST: Brazilian authorities issued arrest warrants for 24 people accused of taking part in illegal logging in the Amazon, according to Telesur. Investigators have linked the group to $94 million worth of environmental damages and say they operated as a business. The bust stems from a three-year investigation into what authorities have called the country’s largest illegal logging ring.

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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