Chennai: The Customs Air Intelligence unit officials at Chennai Airport seized 23.5kg of processed shark fins, valued at Rs.16.5lakhs, that were being smuggled to Dubai by two passengers. Senior officials said that this was the first seizure of wildlife products since the COVID-19 induced lockdown and that the last seizure of shark fins were in December 2019.
The officials said that they maintained a special vigil based on intelligence input of smuggling of wildlife/marine life products to Dubai. They maintained a close watch on two passengers who were carrying carton boxes and were moving in a suspicious manner. The duo were intercepted after clearing immigration and while proceeding for security check.
The passengers allegedly gave evasive replies on being questioned, following which their boxes were examined. On opening the cartons, three white gunny bags were found. Wildlife products, suspected to be shark fins, weighing 9.5kg was recovered from one bag and the other two bags combined contained 14kg of the same.
From their boarding passes and passports the passengers were identified as Sathackkathullah, 52, of Chennai and Abbas, 29, of Tiruchirappali, who were bound for Dubai by Fly Dubai FZ 8518.
The Wild Life Crime Control Bureau officials certified the wildlife products as ‘processed shark fins’ and pointed out that these were likely to belong to a CITES listed species. CITES (The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora) is an international agreement between governments. Its is meant to ensure that international trade in specimens of wild animals and plants does not threaten their survival.
Shark fin soup is an expensive delicacy served in high-end restaurants abroad. The Chinese consider it a symbol of prosperity, status and conferrer of good health. The practice of finning is said to be causing a collapse of shark populations around the world. An estimate says that a bowl of shark soup costs about $100 and that a pound of shark fins can cost over $450 in the international market.
Given the high value of the fins, fishermen often retain only the sharks' fin (which hardly weighs upto 5% of its body weight) and throw the shark back into the ocean, where they die bleeding, suffocated, unable to swim.
A total of 23.5 kgs shark fins valued at Rs. 16.5 lakhs were seized under Customs Act, 1962 read with FT (D&R) 1992, as the export of shark fins is prohibited as per the Foreign Trade Policy.