Endangered Whale Shark Fins Found Hidden in Airline Shipment

While major carriers around the world have pledged to stop transporting shark fins, another investigation has exposed how traders are taking advantage of loopholes to avoid detection.

Just over a year ago, a Sea Shepherd Global investigation found shark fins were still being moved on major carriers by traders who were taking advantage of them by mislabeling shark fins and declaring them as “seafood,” “dried seafood,” “dried goods,” or “dried marine products” to avoid detection.

Sadly, it hasn’t stopped. This month Sea Shepherd Hong Kong discovered a shipment of more than 2,000 pounds of shark fins that was moved from Sri Lanka to Hong Kong via Singapore Air that had fins from whale sharks and possibly oceanic whitetip sharks that were hidden within a shipment of legal fins.

“Singapore Airlines are yet another victim of these shark fin smugglers, who deceived the airline by declaring the shipment as ‘dried seafood’ to skirt the airlines internal booking checks,” said Gary Stokes, Asia Director for Sea Shepherd Global.

These species are both under threat and are protected by CITES, which means they should have had a special export permit, but as Sea Shepherd explained in a statement, by using vague descriptions traders are not only duping carriers with bans in place into moving shark fins, they’re making those shipments a low priority for Hong Kong customs, which is already over-stretched.

According to the AFP, Singapore Airlines, which banned the shipment of shark fin in 2014, has blacklisted the shipper in this case, and sent out a reminder for its stations to sample shipments labeled “dried seafood” to ensure they don’t contain shark fins, but more clearly still needs to be done.

Another problem is that traders don’t have to declare what they shipped until 14 days after the shipment has arrived, at which point the goods are already gone and can’t be inspected.

Sea Shepherd has already called on the Hong Kong government to change tracking methods so shipments can be identified and declared before they arrive, which will help with efforts to enforce bans, and has taken its findings from this investigation to officials in an effort to show them how the current system is failing sharks.

Improvements in the system would at least give the Hong Kong Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department (AFCD) a better chance to protect sharks by enforcing bans.

“They should no longer be called shark fin traders but shark fin smugglers which is exactly what they are, and they should be dealt with as smugglers, instead of being pampered in fear of upsetting livelihoods; they are criminals,” added Stokes. “AFCD Officers need to be given the power to enter, search and prosecute, yet they either do not have the powers or they lack the initiative and incentive to do so.”

Photo credit: Thinkstock

61 comments

Marie W
Marie W3 months ago

thank you

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Vanessa M
Vanessa Merifield9 months ago

So enraging - prosecute them to the fullest extent of the lae

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Michael F
Michael Friedmann9 months ago

Noted, Thank You for Sharing This !!!

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Jen S
Jen S9 months ago

I would think that taking this issue up with the carriers would certainly help. An organized boycott of the air carriers might be effective as would increased and far more stringent inspection of fins. Education is the single best conclusive way to address the issue but the buyers of shark fins for soup and their audience are not usually very receptive to criticism of traditional foods/medicines/superstitions. Shark finning is needless savagery.

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ANA MARIJA R
ANA MARIJA R9 months ago

First step better enforcement of these bans,second boycott the companies that support this crime and third But The Most Important Step is Education of the consumers... and then maybe we have chance to stop this "business"...

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Cathy B
Cathy B9 months ago

Thank you.

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Carole R
Carole R9 months ago

Dispicable humans.

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Leo C
Leo C9 months ago

Thank you for sharing!

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Sherri S
Sherri S9 months ago

I think if more oversight were implemented, shark finning and the shipment of the fins could be greatly reduced. I just think those in charge don't find it important enough to take harsh action.

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Winn A
Winn Adams9 months ago

OMG

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