MUMBAI: The Directorate of Revenue Intelligence (DRI) seized 8,000kg shark fins worth Rs 45 crore and arrested four persons who were running an export racket. A DRI official said around 16,000 sharks would have been killed to obtain the 8-tonne consignment, which was declared as dried ray skin. In 2015, India prohibited export of shark fins and since then, smugglers have resorted to declare consignments as dried ray skins, dried marine products or fish maw.
Shark fins are used to make soup that is cooked on special occasions, primarily in China. The fin itself has very little flavour and is mainly used to add texture. Earlier, it was prepared exclusively for the Chinese emperors and nobility. Sources said that a bowl of can easily cost $100 upwards. Shark fins are also used as aphrodisiacs, he added. The seizures took place during DRI raids on godowns in Sewri and Veraval in Gujarat, belonging to Global Impex Trading Company, on Saturday and Sunday.
The consignment was to be dispatched to Singapore and Hong Kong. An official said a container which has already left for Hong Kong has been recalled. With the help of Central Marine Fisheries Research Institute in Versova, DRI is trying to ascertain the species whose fins were chopped. The accused—Sarafat Ali, proprietor of the firm; his brother, Hameed Sultan, an MBA graduate; manager R Ahmed Asik, and godown incharge R Shivaraman—have been booked under Customs Act for illegal exports and smuggling. They face a maximum imprisonment of seven years.
Ali, the kingpin, has been hiring “hunters” to venture into sea with fishermen to get fins, said an official. “The hunters would net sharks off coasts in Chiplun and , Harnia in Gujarat and Tamil Nadu and Kerala. They indulge in shark finning—removing fins while the shark is alive.” “The accused would send the fins to the two 1,500 sq ft plants at Veraval and Sewri, where they would be dried and processed for exports. The process takes a month. The gang is believed to have sent three consignments. In February, officials had seized two tonnes of shark fins. DRI is also probing the export of fins from Kerala to Singapore and Chennai to Hong Kong,” added the official Activists welcomed the action taken by DRI. Pawan Sharma of Resqink Association for Wildlife Welfare, said, “This is a positive move.” PETA India CEO, Dr Manilal Valliyate, said, “Worldwide commercial fisheries are said to reject 40% of the total marine catch which is accidentally caught in nets. An estimated 50 million sharks are caught every year accidentally. So if you eat fish, you may be responsible for hurting a shark.”
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