THE DIRECTORATE of Revenue Intelligence (DRI) arrested four people from Mumbai on Monday for alleged illegal export of over 8,000 kg of shark fins, worth Rs 45 crore in the international market, to China, Vietnam and Hong Kong. According to DRI, this is the highest seizure of shark fins ever made in India.
The agency has seized about 3,000 kg and 5,000 kg of shark fins from a godown at Sewri in Mumbai and a warehouse at Veraval in Gujarat, respectively. The fins were intended to be exported to China and Hong Kong by “misdeclaring” it as dried ray skin, dried marine products, fish maw among others, said DRI officials. The wildlife inspectors have confirmed that the goods seized are shark fins, the officials added.
The DRI has alleged that the seized shark fins were being allegedly exported through a Mumbai-based proprietary firm, Global Impex Trading. Founded in 2008, it is a leading exporter of seafood items, said sources.
The DRI has arrested Sharafat Ali, owner of Global Impex; his brother Hamid Sultan, in charge of the firm’s business in Mumbai; Asik Ahmad, in charge of the company’s accounts who used to take export orders from Hong Kong and R Sivaraman, in charge of storing the fins and concealing them with the help of fish maw during exports. All have been remanded to DRI custody for 14 days, said officials.
The company has its offices in Mumbai, Chennai and Hong Kong. Most of the illegal exports were routed overseas from Chennai and ports in Kerala, said officials. In January this year, this gang was booked by the customs department in another case pertaining to illegal export of shark fins, officials added.
India has banned export of shark fins of all species in 2015. The Union Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change had approved a policy that prohibits the removal of shark fins on board a vessel in the sea. According to the policy, any possession of shark fins that are not naturally attached to the body of the shark, amounts to hunting of Schedule I species. In September 2014, India had also became a signatory of the Convention of International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) and listed five shark species for conservation.
Shark finning is the act of removing fins from sharks, often while the shark is alive. Once the shark fin is removed, the sharks are discharged into the ocean. These sharks sink into the bottom of the ocean and die as they are unable to swim without fins. The fins are used for preparing a delicacy called the shark fin soup in Chinese and Vietnamese cuisines. Typically, a bowl of shark fin soup costs over $ 100 and the value of the fins in the illicit international market ranges anywhere from $ 500 to $ 1,200 per kg.