shark finSea Shepherd Brazil, Instituto Environmental Justice (Insitutot Justica Ambiental), and the South Coast Institute (Instituto Litoral Sul) filed on Thursday, May 7th, a public civil action in the Federal Court of Rio Grande, Brazil. The NGO's mobilization began on June 19th, 2008, when the Environmental Police of the Military Brigade and IBAMA raided the fishing company Dom Matos Comercio de Pescados e Residuos Ltda, and found 3.3 tons of shark fins. IBAMA is the Brazilian Ministry of the Environment's enforcement agency. The shark fins belonged to species threatened of extinction, including angel sharks. For the amount of fins found, it was estimated that over 36 thousand sharks had been killed.

IBAMA's regulations determines that it is prohibited to reject the carcasses of sharks to the sea after removing its fins, and it also forces all shipments to be weighted and documented with IBAMA when fishing vessels return to port.

"It is a coherent and important regulation that seeks to avoid the uncontrolled capture of sharks. The regulation was ignored, since only shark fins were found at the premises without any carcass," explains Cristiano Pacheco, executive director for Institute Environmental Justice. "We have enough elements for an exemplary pecuniary condemnation."

A technical analysis was presented by biologist Ricardo Clapis Garla, doctor in Biological Sciences and specialist in elasmobranquios (Sharks) of the Federal University of Rig Grande do Norte, which leaves clear the gravity of the situation of these animals and of their involvement in ecosystems.

"Scientific studies show that the removal of sharks can cause unexpected and devastating impacts, whose effects rebound in food chain in several levels of marine ecosystems," warned Garla.

The shark fin industry has ramifications in almost all the coastal countries of the world, including the Galapagos Islands, which is today perhaps the 'Latin capital' of the shark finning industry. In Brazil there are ramifications from Para to Rio Grande do Sul.

"The lack of appropriate government monitoring and of predatory fishing practices in Rio Grande do Sul allows these practices, which is an attempt against all marine biodiversity," comments Sebastian Diano, president of the South Coast Institute.

Alerted to the environmental damage being caused by the insatiable exploration for ever-greater profits and blatant disregard to the law, Sea Shepherd Brazil received privileged information regarding the shark fin black market. The owner of Dom Matos Ltda. in Rio Grande is in fact a representative of another company headquartered in Sao Paulo and has had numerous other companies under his name. The objective of such tactics is to confuse law enforcement agencies by opening and closing new businesses as a facade.

"We are the Robin Hood of the seas, as the character created by William Langland, who stole from the rich to give to the poor; we seek to retake from those that have stolen the ocean riches and give back to our brothers of the sea, which hold the same rights by law as the Brazilian citizens," said Daniel Vairo, general director of Sea Shepherd in Brazil.


Illegally obtained shark fins from the 3.3 tons confiscated by IBAMA:

shark fins

shark fins

shark fins

Photos Credit: Gerson Pataleao

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