Nearly 3,500 China-bound shark fins seized at Bogota airport

Bogota, Sep 24 (EFE).- Colombian authorities seized 3,493 shark fins and 117 kilos (258 pounds) of fish swim bladders at Bogota’s El Dorado International Airport that were bound for Hong Kong, the capital’s government said Friday.

The material had been stashed inside 10 packages that had been sent overland from Roldanillo, a town in the southwestern department of Valle del Cauca, to Bogota’s airport in a bid to export them illegally.

“In recent hours, these shark fins and swim bladders from Valle del Cauca were seized, and their final destination was Hong Kong,” Bogota’s environment secretary, Carolina Urrutia, said.

Authorities estimate that between 900 and 1,000 sharks of different species and lengths ranging from one to five meters (3.2 to 16 feet) were killed, “causing irreparable environmental damage to aquatic ecosystems of Colombia.”

It was the transportation company that carried out the parcel delivery that “initially alerted the authorities,” she said.

Five of the 10 packages contained shark fins and the other five had swim bladders from different fish species that are now being determined. The necessary paperwork was lacking in each case.

“These deliveries lacked the necessary authorization. Of course, these seizures generate a lot of outrage. Very likely they’re the result of illegal fishing processes, and this extremely high volume of shark fins has us very concerned,” the secretary said.

The government prohibits any sale or processing in Colombia of sharks, stingrays and chimaeras, species that are coveted in other parts of the world.

Hong Kong, where importing, exporting or processing threatened species without a license is punishable by up to 10 years in prison and a fine of as much as $1.29 million, is a key transit point for illegal wildlife trafficking.

A wide variety of forest and wildlife products, including wood, shark fins and rhinoceros horns, are smuggled from Hong Kong to different parts of Asia and particularly mainland China. EFE


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