One week ago, on November 19th, inspectors from SENASA, the National Animal Health Service, discovered shark fins from protected species in cargo being exported to Hong Kong. The fins included those from the oceanic whitetip shark as well as several types of hammerheads. These species were recently added to CITES appendix II and are no longer allowed to be traded.
The fins were identified with the help of Pretoma, during a training session. These training exercises are being conducted to help customs officials identify fins that belong to protected species and separate them from ones that are allowed to be exported.
The illegal shark fins were found in a random sample inspection of just three 40 kilogram sacks slated for export. As a result of the find, all 50 sacks were returned to the port town of Puntarenas and not allowed for export. So far, no legal actions have been filed against the exporters. A Pretmoa biologist said that there are many guilty parties in the entire export process and it would be unfair to blame the exporters alone.
Officials reported that both UPS and China Airlines cooperated with the investigation. It seeks to identify loopholes in the inspection process when it comes to the export of shark fins. There are several stages of inspection before the fins arrive at the airport for exportation, the last of which is at a processing plant and overseen by a veterinarian who is supposed to determine if banned species are among the fins.
"Clearly, the system is fallible and inefficient, the facts speak for themselves”
The investigation is calling on authorities to take a close look at the processing plant’s veterinarian, stating that he either signed off on the cargo without inspection, or knew the cargo contained banned species and simply looked the other way.
We certainly hope that inspections like these will be one of the first true enforcement measures for the recent policy changes and species protection. As we mentioned in a previous post, workshops are being held worldwide to help those responsible for identifying the fins of protected species.