Hammerheads, grey sharpnoses, broadfins, and blacktip reef sharks, all endangered species, were among the victims of a shark fin trafficking operation run by Brooklyn-based wholesale seafood retailer Long Quan Seafood International Trading Corp. This month, environmental officials announced that the company had paid a $10,000 fine for trafficking shark fins. It was the state’s first successful prosecution of a ban that went into effect last summer.
Shark fin soup is a delicacy in China, but it’s illegal in New York. Because of depleting shark populations and the brutal nature of finning, in which caught sharks have their fins sliced off and are then returned to the water to die, the practice has been criminalized in the States. Each year, an estimated 73 million sharks are killed around the world to meet the market demand for shark fin soup, which can sell for around $80 a bowl.
In October, a large shipment of dried shark fins headed from JFK to the Brooklyn business caught the attention of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS). Since the Fish and Wildlife Service has only 11 inspectors and tens of thousands of packages come through the airport daily, some illegal items slip through unnoticed.
In the wake of the ban, Chinese restaurants around the city are improvising with shark fin substitutes on their menus, including sea cucumbers and imitation shark fin made from mung bean. But purists have to head to New Jersey, where trading shark fin is still legal, to get their shark fin fix. A jar can cost up to $200.
[via the New York Times]