The Brazilian Institute of Environment and Renewable Natural Resources (IBAMA) has seized 7.7 tons of shark fins from a fish processing plant in the city of Belem after company officials were unable to account for the sale or location of the shark carcasses. The fins were discovered during an inspection of the plant, which has been fined several times for various violations. In this latest incident, the plant now faces a new fine of about $1.4 million USD.
The fins were reportedly being exported to China, where the demand for shark fins has created an unsustainable trade that is threatening shark populations worldwide. The intended destination of the shipment combined with the lack of documentation for how the sharks were obtained suggests the fins were likely harvested illegally through the practice of shark finning.
This story does not bode well for sharks – if a single processing plant in just one city can accumulate almost 8 tons of shark fins, then imagine if you can the scale of illegal shark finning on a global level. Although the company faces a large fine as a result of the IBAMA investigation, the amount could be far less than the potential payoff the company would have received had the fins reached the market. Until the economics change and offenders are punished in accordance with the severity of the crime, you can expect to see more stories like this one.