Agri Business

Kerala High Court stays ban on shark fin export

Our Bureau | | Updated on: Feb 10, 2016

The Kerala High Court has stayed the Central government’s ban on export of shark fins.

Justice Mohammed Mushtaq ordered the stay on Wednesday on a writ petition by Bijumon, a Kochi-based seafood exporter. Bijumon had contended that the ban was issued without consulting the seafood exporters and other stakeholders and without assessing the need for such a ban.

The Director-General of Foreign Trade prohibited the export of shark fins through a notification on February 6 last year. A Union Ministry of Commerce and Industry notification said it had inserted a new entry in ‘Chapter 3 of Schedule 2 of ITC (HS) Classification of Export and Import Items.’ The new entry (31 A) resulted in the ban on export of shark fins.

The ban, it was said, was aimed at checking the reckless destruction of shark populations for securing the fins which were a valuable item in South-East Asian countries where shark fins are used for making soups as well as medicinal preparations.

However, Bijumon contended that the ban had nothing to do with marine fishery conservation. He pointed out that the government had prohibited the catch of only six of the 99 varieties of shark, but the ban on exports applied to all varieties. At the same time, there were no curbs on the sale of shark liver oil and other shark-based products. He also contended that the regulation of marine product exports was the responsibility of the Marine Products Exports Development Authority and hence the ban notification issued by the DGFT was discriminatory.

India is the second largest catcher of sharks, after Indonesia. Around 75,000 tonnes of shark are caught each year. However, India is not a big exporter of fins. In 2014, the government had banned shark ‘finning’, a fishing practice whereby a shark’s fins are chopped off while it is still alive. The rest of the body is dumped back into the sea where, unable to swim, it dies a slow death or is eaten by other fish.

Worldwide, about 70 million sharks are estimated to be killed every year for their fins. Shark fin is the main ingredient of ‘shark fin soup’, an expensive delicacy eaten mainly in China. Though shark finning has been banned by many countries, the ban has not been very effective because of the high demand.

The Seafood Exporters Association of India had urged the Centre to lift the ban on export of shark fins, calling it ‘illogical’ because there was no ban on shark fishing. It had also pointed out that shark meat was widely consumed by the coastal communities.

Published on February 10, 2016
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