Hong Kong is the biggest trading hub for shark fins in the world. Although they’ve taken steps to halt illegal trading, conservation group Sea Shepherd recently uncovered a shipment with fins from endangered sharks that arrived via a Singapore Airlines flight for a Hong Kong dried seafood company. Sea Shepherd said the fins came from whale sharks and possibly oceanic whitetip sharks.
Endangered shark fins arrived in a 2,150-pound shipment marked ‘Dry Seafood’ for Win Lee Fung Ltd. The shipment came from Colombo, Sri Lanka by way of Singapore. Singapore Airlines bans shark fin cargo and said they’d sent a reminder to all stations to administer sampling checks on shipments with such a label. They also said they blacklisted the shipper. Sea Shepherd Asia director Gary Stokes told Reuters, “This is another case of misleading and deceiving. The shipment came declared as ‘dried seafood’ so [it] didn’t flag any alarms.”
Shark fins can be imported in Hong Kong, but for species listed by the United Nations Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), there must be a permit. The species discovered in the shipment were CITES Appendix 2 species and were concealed among legal fins.
Sea Shepherd said smugglers operate by utilizing a vague description — and as Hong Kong Customs is barely able to check one percent of containers arriving in the territory, a shipment with a label like ‘Dry Seafood’ could easily escape notice. “Sea Shepherd Global have asked the Hong Kong Government for a mandatory use of the international Harmonized Shipping Codes for all wildlife products at time of booking for any goods destined to Hong Kong,” Sea Shepherd said in its statement. “Only then would Hong Kong Customs and [Agricultural, Fishers & Conservation Department] stand a fighting chance to have more effective inspections on containers when they know the contents before they arrive.”
As of now, shark fin smugglers only have to declare what was in a shipment 14 days after it has arrived in Hong Kong or pay a penalty of around $10.
The World Wildlife Fund said around 100 million sharks could be killed every year, and they’re frequently targeted for their fins.
Images courtesy of Sea Shepherd Global