Frozen shark fins from Spain, bound for China

By: Melissa Q. Cabahug August 28,2014 - 09:25 AM

The dried shark fins whose smell in an open yard caused weeks of agony for barangay Mactan residents were imported from Spain.

Based on shipping documents, the body parts were described as “Shark Fins” and “B1 BLUE CONGELADA” in the cargo shipped by a seller in Lugo, Spain to Cebu.

“Congelada” is the Spanish word for frozen.

It’s final destination, however, was China based on the import clearance issued by the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR).

The original cargo was bigger than initial media reports which earlier placed it at 5,000 kilos.

The “release clearance” issued by BFAR to the Bureau of Customs in the Port of Cebu said the cargo of 916 bags weighed 17,861.20 kilos.

The shark fins arrived on July 11 intended for the consignee Shell Haven Fashion International in barangay Soong 2, Lapu-Lapu city, a fenced compound where neighbors said the drying of hundreds of shark fins in its open yard was noticed in late July and early August.

The value of the shipment was recorded as 63 cents per unit or a total price of US$11,252.56.

The foul smell covered the sitio, prompting several residents to sign a petition complaint to the barangay captain and City Hall offices of health, the environment and solid waste management.

Barangay captain Evaristo Dehayco, who led an inspection on Aug. 15, said the company had no permit for the shark fin drying, which he said was a new activity not disclosed beforehand to local officials.

Questions were raised about the presence of large-scale processing of shark fins in Lapu-Lapu City following Saturday’s seizure of a 20-foot container van of the dried fins by the provincial anti-illegal fishing task force led by Loy Mardrigal.

The task force had to release the van to Shell Haven after a BFAR inspector said the fins came from Blue Sharks, a species not on the banned list of the government agency.

However, a check with the website of the International Union of Conservation of Nations (IUCN) showed Blue Sharks are classified as “nearly threatened” with extinction.

Yesterday BFAR Regional Director Andres Bojos said the Lapu-Lapu import-export company had complete importation papers to show their goods were legal.

“Legitimate to ang shark fins kay kompleto ilang gipakita nga importation papers,” said Bojos in an interview.

Bojos said there was no need to ask about the capability of BFAR inspectors to identify the species of shark body parts in the container van.

“Og dili ta mosalig nila, ni kinsa pa man diay ta mosalig?” Bojos said.
(If we don’t trust them, who else will we trust?)

In the import papers submitted to BFAR 7, the products only indicate “Frozen shark fins” with no details of what species, whether endangered or not.

The commercial seaway bill said the bags of frozen fish shipped from Spain were stowed in a refrigerated container set at 18 degrees below zero at the shipper’s request.

Randolf Corrales, the Fisheries and Quarantine officer, who inspected the seized cargo, said they were Blue Sharks.

A Cebu provincial ordinance bans the capture, sale and transport of two kinds of sharks – whalesharks or “butanding” and thresher sharks.

By next week, the provincial legislature is expected to pass on final reading an amendment that closes the loophole and bans the trade of all species of sharks in the territory of Cebu province.

Corrales graduated with a degree in fisheries from the University of the Philippines-Iloilo.

His superior, Bojo, said his staffer was fully capable of determining the nature of imported shark meat.

“From the way Spain gives high importance to their aquatic resources, there should be no more questions, “ said Bojos in Cebuano

Asked how to determine the species of shark from chopped body parts, the official said the bureau can send a sample to its central office in Manila for closer examination if there are any questions.

BFAR-7 Assistant Regional Director Dr. Allan Poquita, former chair of the Fisheries Inspection and Quarantine Service, said the inspector would always rely on the documents given by the importer.

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TAGS: BFAR, Lugo, shark, shark fins, Shark week, Spain to Cebu, thresher shark

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