QUITO, Ecuador – Ecuador seized around 200,000 shark fins and arrested three suspected traffickers in Manta, the country’s main fishing port last week.
Ecuadorian authorities reported that at least 300,000 sharks were killed by the traffickers, in one of the most serious environmental crimes reported in the country in years. Shark finning usually entails slicing the fins off the animals and tossing them back into the water to die.
The fins were to be shipped to China and would have yielded up to $1.5 million, prosecutor Vicente Parraga told the social action platform Take Part.
Interior Minister Jose Serrano announced the seizure on Twitter on Wednesday, posting pictures of rows, piles and bags of the dark-colored shark fins.
Debemos terminar con estas redes delincuenciales q no miran mas q su interés económico destruyendo el ecosistema pic.twitter.com/5kfOzkEukG
— José Serrano Salgado (@ppsesa) May 27, 2015
The shark fins were seized in several operations in the port city of Manta. Police did not specify how long ago the fins were harvested.
Shark fins are coveted in Asia for medicinal purposes and due to the demand for shark fin soup, considered a delicacy. Their trade is banned in Ecuador.
In Costa Rica, landing shark fins is prohibited unless they are attached to the shark’s body.
Costa Rica lobbied to include three species of hammerhead sharks in Appendix II of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) in March 2013. CITES prohibits the export of threatened species, such as hammerheads, unless authorities can prove that the export will not affect the species by moving it from a threatened category to endangered.
In February, the National System of Conservation Areas (SINAC) and Costa Rica’s CITES administrators granted an export permit for 1,200 kilograms of hammerhead fins, the equivalent of approximately 2,000 sharks. Last December, another export permit was granted for 411 kilograms of fins.