Police in Panama seized more than six tons of shark fins bound for Asia on Thursday, arresting five people in connection to the illegal trade, authorities said.
The black-market shark fin trade is estimated to be worth $500 million annually, and Panama last year spearheaded international efforts to protect many endangered shark species.
Attorney General Javier Caraballo told a press conference that most of the seized fins “were already dehydrated and ready to be exported”.
The shark fins were allegedly destined for Asia, police said, where a kilo of fins can cost up to $1,000.
Shark fin soup is viewed as a delicacy in East Asia, often eaten at weddings and expensive banquets. It is also believed in some countries, including China and Japan, to slow aging, improve appetite, aid memory and stimulate sexual desire.
Authorities suspect that the shark fins were being sent from Panama to a Chinese citizen who financed the activity.
Police also seized a pistol with an expired permit and bank transfer documentation during the operation, and discovered a storage and packaging center used in the fin trade.
The five people who were arrested during the operation will be charged with crimes against collective security and the environment.
In November 2022, the Panama summit on international trade in endangered species — attended by 183 countries and the European Union — adopted a resolution to protect 54 more shark species in a blow to the lucrative fin trade.
According to the Pew Environment Group, between 63 million and 273 million sharks are killed every year, mainly for their fins and other parts.
In many parts of the world, fisherman lop the shark’s fins off at sea, tossing the shark back into the ocean for a cruel death by suffocation or blood loss.
©️ Agence France-Presse