A Taiwanese fishing vessel with nearly two tons of dried shark fins on board was seized at Cape Town harbour on Saturday.
The fins were confiscated by Department of Environmental Affairs inspectors and the skipper and crew of 26 face criminal charges for providing false information about their catch.
Carol Moses, spokesperson for Marine and Coastal Management (MCM), said it was clear the foreign-flagged vessel, the Chien Jui 102, had been finning. This practice involves hacking fins off live sharks and throwing them back into the sea where they either bleed to death or become prey for other sharks.
The organisation World Conservation estimates that finning causes the death of tens of millions of sharks worldwide each year.
The demand for shark fins is mostly to supply the East with shark fin soup, where it is regarded as a delicacy. Blacktip, silky and blue sharks are among those targeted.
Moses said that in terms of international regulations, the number of shark fins landed must correspond with the number of shark trunks on board.
She said that both the Indian Ocean Tuna Commission and the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas prescribed that the weight of the fins should not be more than 5% of the shark trunk.
Moses said the Chien Jui 102’s permit had indicated they had 100kg of shark fin, 2,2 tons of shark trunk and 2 945kg of tuna on board.
But what they, in fact, had was nearly two tons of dried shark fins, which meant they should have had about 30 tons of shark trunk.
Moses said the vessel would be blacklisted for illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing and would remain in the harbour until the case had been finalised.