Foul smell exposes new business of drying shark fins for export

By: Norman V. Mendoza August 27,2014 - 09:06 AM


The foul smell of hundreds of shark fins drying in the sun prompted residents of barangay Mactan in Lapu-Lapu City to complain about their neighbor’s new business.

More than 60 residents signed a petition on yellow pad paper complaining of the bad odor.

It was so bad, said 60-year-old Juana Ramos, who lives a few meters from the drying yard of Shell Haven Fashion International, that the day-long stench made her feel nauseous.

“Lain gyud kaayo og baho kadtong pagsugod nila og buwad, mura mi og malipong,” she told Cebu Daily News.

(The smell was so bad when they started drying, we all felt dizzy.)

That’s why they went to the barangay captain Evaristo Dehayco on the first week of August.

Copies of their petition were also sent to the City Health Office, the City Environment and Natural Resources Office (Cenro) and the Solid Waste Management Office.

Residents peeped through the fence and saw hundreds of dark fins hanging on lines or laid on the ground under the sun to dry.

That was a new sight for them, said Dehayco.


Mactan island is no stranger to factory processing of marine resources – legal and illegal – from banned corals and dried star fish to Mactan stone and shark meat for fishballs.

But the mass drying of shark fins, which are valued as ingredients for soup in high-priced menus of Chinese restaurants abroad and medicinal concoctions, was something new.

The pungent odor is due to the high concentration of urea in the skin of sharks, which excrete their wastes directly through the skin.

Last Aug. 15, Dehayco led an inspection of the premises with representatives of the city’s environment, health and solid waste offices.

The factory caretaker showed them around, but when Dehayco asked to see papers for the new business of drying shark fins, the caretaker said the papers were “still being processed.”

The place reeked of the smell like that of a pile of dead animals, which this correspondent experienced during that visit.

Officials found out that the company was registered under the name of a Chinese national, Andy Wi , with operations for shell export and seaweed drying.

“Drying shark fins was the first time for them. They didn’t have a business permit for that,” Dehayco said.

The barangay captain said no public hearing was held or disclosure made to the barangay about this discreet operation.

This led to a 24-hour watch of the premises by Task Force Kalikasan police members and CENRO until the first shipment came out last Saturday, Aug. 23.

About 5,000 kilos of the fins were trucked out heading for the Cebu International Port for shipment to Hong Kong.

Since Lapu-Lapu city has no ordinance banning shark trading, enforcers tipped off counterparts in Cebu province, which has a 2012 ordinance that prohibits the capture,sale and transport of two specific shark species — the whale shark, made famous in Oslob tourism and the thresher shark, which draws divers all over the world to Malapascua Island.

An amendment to expand coverage to all species of sharks is still being finalized by Capitol legislators.

But there’s another loophole: Lapu-Lapu city is not under the jurisdiction of the province.

The container van was intercepted at the Marcelo Fernan Bridge on the Mandaue side by the anti-illegal fishing task force of Cebu province led by Loy Madrigal.

However, a representative of the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) Randolf Corrales, who inspected the contents, said the fins were from Blue Sharks, which was not on the agency’s list of endangered species.

The cargo was released to the the Shell Haven Fashion International, whose broker accompanied BFAR personnel to present shipping documents to Madrigal.

It was not clear whether Corrales’ credentials included a degree in marine biology or the expertise to identify the type of shark from the many different species of sharks, based on the physical appearance of fins alone.

The Blue Shark (Prionace galuca) is classified as “nearly threatened” with extinction in the Red List of the International Union of Conservation of Nations (IUCN).

These sharks are found in tropical and temperate waters, including the Philippines.

“Its flesh is not highly valued but its fins are, meaning many Blue Sharks are finned at sea and subsequently discarded,” said a study in the IUCN website.

Sought for comment yesterday, Lapu-Lapu City Mayor Paz Radaza, yesterday said she wasn’t aware of the problem until the seizure of shark fins was reported in the news.

She said said she tasked CENRO and the City Treasurer’s office to check the business permit and other requirements of the company.

“We are one with advocating the preservation of sharks especially the endangered species.

Anyway the CENRO office is already coordinating with other government agencies and will soon bring it to the city council for the possible passage of an ordinance to ban killing, selling and transportation of sharks in Lapu-Lapu City,” she said.

Radaza is scheduled to give her annual State of the City address this morning at the Hoops Dome.
After the weekend’s initial shipment of 5,000 tons of shark fins, the export firm has not been noticed drying new stocks in its yard.

But residents keep watch and continue to check with their noses.

Related Stories:

Van of shark fins bound for HK seized, released 

Showdown in HK as activists vow to block Cebu shark fins

5K of shark fins intercepted by Capitol task force

Shark meat sold in stall




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TAGS: shark, Shark week, thresher shark

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