Continued demand for shark fin soup, dumplings, and other related dishes served in restaurants around the world — particularly in China — perpetuates the practice of finning, which consists of removing fins from sharks and discarding the rest of the animal back into the ocean. The sharks are often still alive when discarded, but without their fins. Unable to swim effectively, they sink to the bottom of the ocean and die of suffocation or are eaten by other predators, according to marine biologists.
There are an estimated 73 million sharks being killed each year for their fins alone. That corresponds to three sharks dying at human hands each second. The act of finning is prohibited in many countries, including Australia, Canada, the United States, and the European Union. However, shark fin illegal trade is common in many other parts of the world, says the International Union for Conservation of Nature, an international organization working in the field of nature conservation and sustainable use of natural resources.
First conviction in Peru
Regulations in Peru aiming to better protect shark species were approved in November 2016, among them, the ban on shark finning. However, it was only on February 9, 2022 that Peru convicted shark fin traffickers for the very first time. A court in the western town of Santa sentenced two people to four and a half years in prison for the attempted sale of a load of 1,800 kilograms of shark fins, according to investigative journalism organization Insight Crime. In mid-March 2018, environmental prosecutors stopped a truck traveling from Tumbes, a city on Peru’s northern Pacific coast, to the capital, Lima. The truck held 51 bags of wrapped shark fins. A subsequent investigation found the fins were to be illegally sold by Jorge Roldan Angulo Sánchez, deputy manager of a seafood company, to a buyer, identified as Poly Diks Pinto Gonzáles, for $18,000. The fins were then set to be exported as legal animal products to Hong Kong, Insight Crime reported.
This is the first effective sentencing for trafficking in hydrobiological resources in Peru and sets a very important precedent in the fight against trafficking of aquatic species, said Oceana, an international organization focused solely on oceans, upon hearing about the sentencing in Peruvian court.
The illegal trafficking of wildlife, including aquatic species, is the fourth most lucrative illegal activity in the world and represents between $4 to $9.5 billion annually. During 2020, at least 28 tons of shark trunks, 2,300 kilograms of fins, and 117 kg of seahorses were seized in Peru alone, according to Oceana.
A report by Mongabay, a non-profit environmental science and conservation news platform, shows that the lack of sharks in the ocean can trigger several problems. Walter Bustos, former director of the Galápagos National Park in Ecuador, explains that “sharks are in the pyramid of the food chain. That is, they are part of the top predators that regulate the population level of other species. If these regulating agents do not exist, other species can increase their population, become a plague, and end up destroying vast ecosystems.”