U.S. government officials discovered over 1,400 pounds of shark fins estimated to be worth $1 million USD, hidden in boxes in Miami, Florida, according to CNN.
In a news release, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said the shark fins were hidden in 18 boxes. It is believed the dried fins arrived from South America and were likely headed to Asia, the AP reported.
Shark fin soup is awell known Asian delicacy, especially in China. To meet the demand, smugglers kill tens of millions of sharks every year, cutting the fin from a live shark, according to conservation groups, as the AP reported.
The practice of shark finning is banned in several countries because it is extremely wasteful and cruel. After the fin is cut off from the live shark, the rest of the shark is discarded. The practice has been a federal crime in the U.S. since 2000, according to the Miami Herald.
"The goal of this seizure is to protect these species while deterring trackers from using US ports as viable routes in the illegal shark fin trade," Christina Meister, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, said as the Miami Herald reported.
An international agreement between governments around the world is aimed to protect vulnerable animals and plants. The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) protects only12 species of sharks, which are included in Appendix II of CITES, according to CNN.
According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service:
"The shipment violated the Lacey Act and included CITES listed species," Gavin Shire, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Chief of Public Affairs, told CNN. "We are limited to what we can say about this as it is an ongoing case."
While it is illegal in the U.S. to cut off a fin from a live shark and discard the rest of the animal, it is not illegal to traffic or trade shark fins in the U.S. Another issue is that shark fin imports may not be indicated on the import forms. Shark fins are often classified simply as dried seafood or frozen seafood, or as shark fins from one of the species not on the list of banned items.
"The recent seizure of more than 1,000 pounds of shark fins in Miami from potentially protected species demonstrates why we need a federal shark fin ban," said Ariana Spawn, an ocean advocate at the nonprofit advocacy group Oceana, as CNN reported. She urged the Senate to pass the Shark Fin Sales Elimination Act (S.877), which would ban the trade of fins nationwide.