Hong Kong customs officials performed their largest shark fin seizure ever this week, discovering 26 tonnes of fins from some 38,500 endangered sharks, the Chinese region revealed Wednesday.
The fins were discovered inside two shipping containers from Ecuador, which arrived within 10 days of each other, and were worth nearly $1.1 million, according to the South China Morning Post.
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“Each consignment consisting of 13 tonnes broke the previous record seizure of 3.8 tonnes of controlled shark fins made in 2019,” assistant superintendent Danny Cheung Kwok-yin of the Customs and Excise Department’s marine enforcement group told the outlet.
The two boxes each held more than 300 nylon bags of dried shark fins which were sliced off from an estimated 31,000 thresher and 7,500 silky sharks, the outlet reported.
Officials first became suspicious about the shipments after noticing Spanish language markings on the boxes.
“It’s unusual for some imported goods to be described in foreign languages other than English,” Cheung said, noting that this was not the first time shark fins were shipped from Ecuador.
According to the Post, the owner of the Hong Kong logistics firm who received the packages was arrested.
The 57-year-old man has been granted bail and is pending further investigation.
“It’s shocking to see such a big smuggling case in the city,” said Gloria Lai Pui-yin, a senior conservation office with environmental group WWF-Hong Kong, per Oceanographic Magazine. “We need to remain vigilant and ensure there is better oversight in the city.”