Hong Kong customs officers seize 3.3 tonnes of protected guitarfish fins worth HK$4.6 million

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Hong Kong customs officers have made a rare bust involving the dried fins of guitarfish – a protected, sharklike species of ray – seizing 3.3 tonnes worth an estimated HK$4.6 million (US$593,000) from a shipping container arriving from Africa.

A law enforcement source confirmed the fins discovered on Monday were believed to have come from guitarfish, which are endangered and have a distinctive tail and fins that can be reminiscent of a shark.

“It is the first time such a large volume of this type of dried fins was found in Hong Kong,” he said.

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The source said it was worth about HK$1,400 per kilogram on the local market, more than double the value of previously seized shark fins.

According to the Customs and Excise Department, the container, declared to have been carrying seafood, was shipped into the city from Guinea last week, then selected for inspection via normal risk-assessment techniques.

In late April and early May of 2020, about 13 tonnes of dried shark fins from protected species was seized by customs officers. Photo: Nora Tam
In late April and early May of 2020, about 13 tonnes of dried shark fins from protected species was seized by customs officers. Photo: Nora Tam

More than 160 bags of dried fins were discovered when the container was opened for inspection at the Kwai Chung Customhouse Cargo Examination Compound.

“In an effort to avoid detection, each bag contained both dried fins of endangered species and others that were not from protected species,” the source said.

He said officers from the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department would investigate whether the haul was intended for local consumption or destined for another place.

No arrests have been made.

In Hong Kong, the import and export of an endangered species or its parts without a licence carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in jail and a HK$10 million fine.

Only about two weeks ago, customs officers seized about three tonnes of dried shark fins from endangered species worth HK$2.2 million from two air consignments from Mexico.

In January, more than a tonne of dried fins from endangered species of shark were found hidden in an air consignment from the Philippines. They had an estimated market value of HK$750,000.

In May of 2020, customs officers confiscated 26 tonnes of endangered shark fins worth HK$8.6 million found in two containers from Ecuador. The haul was more than double the amount officers had seized in the whole of 2019 and the largest seizure of its kind in Hong Kong.

The Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department estimated the 26 tonnes of fins had been removed from about 31,000 thresher sharks and 7,500 silky sharks.

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