Maldives Customs Service on Sunday seized 429kg of shark fins from Velana International Airport (VIA).
According to Customs, the shipment consisted of 21 boxes declared as salted fish, to be illegally exported from the country.
The contraband is valued at an estimated MVR 2.6 million, per shark fins' average retail price of USD 400 (MVR 6,168) per kilogramme on the global market.
The shark fins were packaged in boxes from Enzi, the local brand name of products marketed by Ensis Fisheries, a major fisheries exporter. However, Customs later confirmed that the consignee who declared the shipment at the airport was not affiliated with Enzi.
Customs stated that the identities of the perpetrators would be disclosed at the end of the investigation.
Meanwhile, the managing director of Ensis, Mohamed Waseem Ismail, told local media Mihaaru that the company would press charges against the culprits for defaming the brand's good name.
Shark fin is considered a delicacy and ingredient of traditional medicine across some countries, particularly in China, resulting in a demand for shark finning since the late 1990s. Studies show that approximately 73-100 million sharks are killed globally annually, while the "rapidly expanding and largely unregulated shark fin trade represents one of the most serious threats to shark populations worldwide", according to The International Union for Conservation of Nature's Shark Specialist Group.
Fishing of all types of sharks has been banned throughout Maldives for nearly a decade, as stated in the Fisheries Act of Maldives, 1987 (Act No. 5/87).
A ten-year moratorium was imposed in 1998 on shark fishing, a fisheries sector in conflict with the far more lucrative pole and line tuna industry. By the end of the moratorium, due to lowered sightings of reef sharks, coupled with declining status of shark fisheries, on March 1, 2009, the government declared a ban on reef shark fishing within 12 nautical miles from outer rims of all atolls. On March 15, 2010, a total ban on shark fishing was imposed in all Maldivian waters.