Mumbai, Sep 3 (IANS) In a major swoop, the Directorate of Revenue Intelligence (DRI) has seized over eight tonnes (8,000 kg) of shark fins from Mumbai and Veraval in Gujarat worth several crores of rupees, an official said on Monday.
While three tonnes were hauled from a warehouse in Sewri, central Mumbai, the remaining five tonnes were seized from a godown in the Veraval fishing town of adjoining Gujarat.
Four persons, including a mastermind in the illegal operation, have been arrested by the DRI.
Sources said the seizures were a part of a smuggling racket and that the entire consignment was intended for Hong Kong and China, where it is considered a rare delicacy.
The consignment was fraudulently declared as ‘dried marine products’ to avoid detection and circumvent the Indian prohibition rules.
However, the DRI sleuths said the Wildlife Department officials have confirmed the seizure as the banned shark fins and these stocks were being replenished for illegal supplies on a regular basis.
While the exact value is still being ascertained, shark fins are highly expensive. Depending on the species, the rates range from $800 per kg to around $50,000.
Though the usage is limited to special occasions such as banquets, weddings or parties, it is available in select outlets with a bowl of shark fin soup costing upwards of $100.
The shark fins are removed when the sharks are still alive, comprising barely one-five per cent of its total weight, and the rest of the body is discarded.
Minus the fins, these sharks cannot swim and either painfully suffocate to death in the high seas or are preyed by other marine predators.
“The carcasses often get washed up on the shores. When shark population decreases, a ripple effect can spread throughout the rest of the ocean ecosystem,” cautioned the DRI.
Since 2013, India has banned all types of shark finning.