Hong Kong has seized 26 tonnes of smuggled shark fins, sliced from some 38,500 endangered animals. This the largest bust of its kind in the southern Chinese city.
The fins were discovered in two containers from Ecuador. Most of the fins came from thresher and silky sharks, both endangered species.
Sharks have been killed in big numbers over the last few decades for their fins. People cut the fin from the shark and then throw the fatally injured animal back in the sea. Without his fin, the shark sinks to the bottom of the ocean and dies of suffocation.
The dried fins sell for considerable sums and are usually served in a sticky soup at banquets.
Years of campaigning by environmentalists and celebrities like Chinese basketball star Yao Ming have led to the dish becoming less fashionable among younger consumers in China, Macau, Hong Kong and Taiwan.
But it remains stubbornly popular among older generations and many prominent hotels and restaurants still offer it.
Environmental organization WildAid estimates 73 million sharks are killed every year for their fins. Their research says consumption has dropped significantly on the Chinese mainland, but there is a growing appetite for the dish in Thailand, Vietnam and Indonesia.
With its busy port and international connections, Hong Kong has long been a major trafficking route for wildlife and drug smugglers.
A 57-year-old man was arrested but has been released on bail.
Importing endangered species without a license is illegal and carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in jail and a HK$10 million ($1.3 million) fine.
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