Officials in Ecuador have reported a large number of shark fins seized over the past month, a development that suggests an industrial-scale practice of “shark finning” along the country’s coastline, feeding a booming Asian market.

On May 27, Ecuador’s Attorney General’s Office, through its official Twitter account, announced over 100,000 shark fins had been seized during nine raids by authorities in the city of Manta, a figure that reportedly represents more than 30,000 sharks captured and killed.

Con lo de hoy y sumadas las incautaciones en este mes son alrededor de 100.000 aletas de tiburón decomisadas

— FiscaliaEcuador (@FiscaliaEcuador) May 27, 2015

Según el fiscal provincial de #Manabí, Vicente Párraga, eso representa más de 30.000 tiburones capturados y muertos.

— FiscaliaEcuador (@FiscaliaEcuador) May 27, 2015

However, Jose Serrano Salgado, Ecuador’s Minister of Interior — also sending updates via Twitter — said the number of shark fins seized was approaching 200,000. “We have to stop these criminal networks that only care about money and are destroying the environment,” Serrano tweeted along with images of the confiscated fins.

Debemos terminar con estas redes delincuenciales q no miran mas q su interés económico destruyendo el ecosistema

— José Serrano Salgado (@ppsesa) May 27, 2015

2/2 lo q significa el sacrificio de no menos de 25 mil tiburones, en Manta, gran trabajo de la Policia Judicial

— José Serrano Salgado (@ppsesa) May 27, 2015

According to the Attorney General, five people have so far been arrested, with authorities also uncovering shark hunting tools and chemicals for preserving the fins.

Ecuadorian law prohibits shark finning — whereby the fins of sharks are cut off and their bodies dumped back into the ocean — but in 2007 President Rafael Correa added an exception for sharks caught “incidentally.”

InSight Crime Analysis

The gruesome practice of shark finning has been seen in other Latin American nations with significant shark populations in their coastal waters, and it has continued apace despite outcries from conservation groups over its negative environmental effects resulting in several countries banning the practice.

SEE ALSO: Coverage of Eco Trafficking

Fueling this illicit trade has been demand in Asia, where dried shark fins — used to make “shark fin soup” — can sell for $700 per kilo. The Ecuadorian fishing port of Manta has been known to be one of the most important sources in Latin American for shark fins being exported to Asia to feed this market.

Nonetheless, despite its illegality, fisherman and other criminal entrepreneurs have clearly been able to continue the practice, exploiting loopholes and ambiguities in regulations in order to take advantage of high prices and potential for large profits.

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