5 tons of shark fins seized, freed

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Saturday, August 23, 2014

CEBU CITY. The Capitol’s Task Force Against Illegal Fishing, led by Loy Madrigal, worked with Lapu-Lapu City’s Task Force Kalikasan to intercept about five tons of shark fins Saturday morning in Mandaue City. They released the goods before the day was over, after a broker showed proof these fins didn’t come from endangered sharks. (Alan Tangcawan)


CEBU CITY -- A team from the Capitol and Lapu-Lapu City confiscated on Saturday dried shark fins inside a 20-foot cargo container, but had to release the shipment, estimated to be worth P15 million, hours later.

The Cebu Provincial Government said in its Facebook page that the shipment’s broker showed proof that the meat and fins didn’t come from endangered sharks that shouldn’t be captured, under a provincial ordinance.

Teams like Cebu Province’s Task Force Against Illegal Fishing and Lapu-Lapu City’s Task Force Kalikasan lack a quick way to verify whether intercepted shark meat and fins belonged to endangered species.

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This was one of the difficulties identified in the recent Shark Summit in Cebu.

Loy Madrigal, chief of the Capitol task force, asked for three sample fins to be examined next week, and the shipper’s representative agreed.
The Capitol and Lapu-Lapu teams conducted the operation after concerned citizens reported that for two days, they saw the shark fins spread to dry under the sun’s heat, inside a compound in Sitio Dapdap and Sitio Soong, Barangay Mactan in Lapu-Lapu City.

Citizens’ tip

“Citizens were concerned that the shark fins had come from endangered species, so they took photos and sent these to us,” said Madrigal.

The compound was believed to be owned by Shell Haven Fashion International, which an official receipt from the Cebu Port Authority identified as the shipper.

The shipment was headed for Hong Kong, and its consignee was identified as Qian Hang Trading Corp.

The joint team intercepted the truck at 11:30 a.m. Saturday at the corner of Plaridel St. and United Nations Ave. in Mandaue City. It carried 5,000 kilos of sharks fins stuffed inside a 20-foot cargo container.

The task force then led the van to the Cebu International Convention Center compound, supposedly to detain the cargo until charges could be filed against the owner.

Its declared value was P3,000 per kilo or P15 million for the total of 5,000 kilos, said Madrigal.

Blue sharks

But on Saturday afternoon, the Cebu Provincial Government announced on Facebook that the sharks’ fins were released.

“A broker for the shipper presented documents showing their shipment to be that of blue sharks,” the post stated. Blue sharks are not covered by the provincial ordinance banning the hunting of thresher sharks.

Madrigal said that aside from a Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) in Central Visayas permit, some documents were shown to him indicating that the shark fins were imported from Spain.

The Capitol’s Facebook post also said that Randolf Corrales of BFAR 7 identified the fins as those of blue sharks.

“Basin man pud ma technical ta, madaot man pud ang probinsiya (We might get the Province into trouble, on a technicality),” said Madrigal, when asked to explain the release.

The Provincial Fisheries and Aquatic Ordinance or Ordinance 2012-05 mandates the protection of vulnerable species, including thresher sharks, and bans their capture and sale.

Shark trade

Imprisonment of not more than one year or a fine of not more than P5,000, or both penalties, await violators.

During the Shark Summit held in the Capitol last Aug. 14-15, environmentalists’ groups pointed to the low penalties, which fail to deter violators of laws meant to protect sharks and other wildlife.
There is a “vast trade of shark resources” in Southeast Asia because fins, cartilage and live oil, among other shark products are so profitable, the National Plan of Action for the Conservation and Management of Sharks pointed out.

But at the time the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources prepared the plan in 2009, one of the problems was the lack of knowledge on practices employed in shark fisheries, including information on how many sharks were being captured, how these were landed, and just how large the shark trade was.

It said that shark meat was often processed for the domestic production of fish balls, fish sausages, tempura, and artificial crabs or scallops.

It also said that blue sharks were among the most highly valued sources of shark fins in Hong Kong, “the world capital of shark fin cuisine.” (OCP of Sun.Star Cebu)

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on August 24, 2014.

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